Graduation Semester and Year




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Social Work


Social Work

First Advisor

Anne Nordberg


The purpose of this qualitative phenomenological study was to explore the lived experiences associated with (genocide, migration, resettlement) and socio/cultural factors that influenced Rwandan refugees’ mental health in the United States (U.S.). In 2018, there were more than 25 million refugees displaced around the world, and more than 50,000 refugees were admitted to the United States in 2017 (UNHCR, 2019). Studies have shown that refugees are more likely to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety than the general population (Bogic et al., 2015; Goodkind et al., 2017). Despite the prevalence of mental health concerns amongst refugees, minimal information is known about the experiences of genocide, migration, resettlement, and socio/cultural factors of Rwandan refugees resettled in the U.S. To capture these experiences, the study utilized the ecological systems theory to lend insight into how the mental experiences of Rwandan refugees are influenced by events that occurred during the Rwandan genocide (pre-migration) and resettlement. In doing so, the study utilized a descriptive phenomenological study to understand Rwandan refugees’ experiences. This study used purposive snowball sampling to recruit thirteen individuals who self-identified as Rwandan refugees. Data were obtained through in-depth interviews and were analyzed using Colaizzi’s (1978) five steps of descriptive phenomenological analysis. Four major themes and one sub-theme emerged from in-depth interviews. The identified themes and subthemes were as follows: 1) Traumatic Experiences of Rwandan refugees: 1a) Effects of Trauma 2) Resettlement Experiences of Rwandan refugees in the U.S. 3) Barriers to Mental Help-Seeking Among Rwandan Refugees in the U.S. and 4) Rwandan Refugee Coping and Help-Seeking Behaviors Differ in the U.S. These findings extend the literature on how untreated traumas may be exacerbated by socio-cultural aspects or migration to produce lasting negative effects on survivors and refugees. Collectively, the challenges that Rwandan refugees face cannot be resolved by one-size-fits-all or a silver bullet but rather calls for the development and implementation of multi-level and multi-component culturally attuned interventions.


Rwandan refugees, Migration, Mental health and resettlement


Social and Behavioral Sciences | Social Work


Degree granted by The University of Texas at Arlington

Included in

Social Work Commons