High depression levels among young Tibetans: study

April 10th, 2008 - 5:25 pm ICT by admin  

Washington/Dharamsala, April 10 (IANS) Forced to flee from their homeland, often without their parents, and then living as refugees has led to high depression levels among young Tibetans, says a study by a US researcher. The findings of the study by researcher Charles L. Raison of the Emory University School of Medicine have been published in the latest issue of the journal Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology.

The study states that as compared to Tibetans born and brought up in exile in places like northern India and Nepal, those refugees born in Tibet and then fleeing from there have higher levels of anxiety and depression.

“As political tensions within Tibet continue to erupt, it is estimated that approximately 2,500 Tibetan refugees per year cross the Himalayas into Nepal, seeking asylum there or in India,” said Raison, an assistant professor in Emory’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences.

“One-third of these refugees are children and 90 percent of those children are without parents. Not only have these children been victimized in an environment lacking in respect for human rights, but their escape from Tibet to India through the perilous Himalayas is full of risk and trauma,” he added.

The study, which was conducted in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh at both the upper Dharamsala and Bir campuses of the Tibetan Children’s Villages (TCV), saw 319 students answer a questionnaire meant to analyse their state of mind.

TCV serves as the primary school system for ethnic Tibetans in exile in India and Nepal.

Tenzin Choeying, head of the Students of Free Tibet group, said that he agreed with the findings of the study.

“The emotional burden on the younger generation of Tibetans is a matter of great concern. Those who have been born in exile are in a better state of mind than those who were born in Tibet and have been forced to flee, with or without their parents,” Choeying told IANS.

“What the study states is true…can you imagine the state of mind of young children who have escaped from their birth land to an unknown land, most of the times without their parents? And even after they grow up, there is the question of employment,” he said.

Lina Richeson, a 24-year-old Tibetan refugee born in India, said: “For young Tibetans it’s a constant endeavour of seeking an identity. Whether it’s in finding a good job or the sense of belonging to a place and not just be a refugee…it’s always a struggle”.

Raison concludes that there is a need for continued support for refugee communities, even after prolonged periods of what seems to be successful adaptation in an exile environment.

He suggests that providing increased international resources toward the improvement of emotional functioning for these adolescents and young adults could make a significant difference.

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