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“I Talk to Myself”: Exploring the Mental and Emotional Health Experiences of Muslim Rohingya Refugee Adolescents


There is limited research examining the mental and emotional challenges, social support systems, and coping strategies of Muslim Rohingya refugee adolescents in the United States. The Rohingya, a Muslim ethnic minority group from Myanmar are considered one of the world’s largest stateless populations. This in-depth qualitative study among Muslim Rohingya adolescents aged 12–17 who reside in Chicago, IL (N = 15) builds understanding of their lived experiences of mental and emotional health. Employing a thematic analysis approach and adopting elements of youth Participatory Action Research (yPAR), our findings illuminate: (1) how the US school environment impacts the mental and emotional health of Rohingya adolescents; (2) Rohingya adolescents’ self-reliance as a coping mechanism showcasing their resilience and self-empowerment, and finally (3) the critical role played by their family and their Islamic faith as social support. We argue for the need to develop culturally grounded interventions that center Rohingya adolescents’ collectivist culture, Islamic faith, and their own unique strategies of self-reliance. As such, it is imperative to engage with Rohingya adolescents, their parents and caregivers, as well as refugee community leadership in the creation of mental health programs and interventions. Implications for research, practice, and education are discussed.

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We are immensely grateful to the Rohingya adolescent participants in this study for their time and contributions to this research. We would also like to thank the Rohingya community members at Rohingya Cultural Center in Chicago. Special thank you to Br. Nasir Zakaria and Sr. Nur Hayati for their valuable insight and guidance in this work. We would also like to Dr. Hirokazu Yoshikawa and journal reviewers for their helpful feedback and suggestions to strengthen our manuscript.


This work was supported by New York University Silver School of Social Work’s Office of Faculty Research.

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Magan, I.M., Sanchez, E. & Munson, M.R. “I Talk to Myself”: Exploring the Mental and Emotional Health Experiences of Muslim Rohingya Refugee Adolescents. Child Adolesc Soc Work J (2022).

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