The cultural bereavement of skilled professionals

June 14, 2013

 

The reason for immigration is an important determinant for mental health among immigrants. At the same time one has to be mindful that the mental health needs of migrants and refugees are very different. Therefore, in examining the settlement process of a skilled professional migrant, a difference may be expected along with some identical issues.
Mental health professionals may use the metaphor of the seven stages of the grief cycle (i.e. shock, denial, anger, guilt, depression, bargaining and acceptance) to better understand the experiences felt by skilled professional migrants as they endeavour to adjust to their new homeland.
When a highly skilled migrant arrives, there may be an element of shock in terms of settlement and work. The social norms from their country of origin suddenly start looking strange at the new workplace. At the same time, feelings of denial, anger and guilt are likely wax and wane acutely, on a regular basis. The reason may be due to an inherent self-belief that the individual has disowned their homeland for whatsoever reason. The intensity of each emotion depends on what ties the individual may have severed in order to emigrate. For example, if elderly parents were left behind, the mere thought of their health and welfare can generate immense guilt. Denial of what has been lost, is supported by rationalising their choice to leave and engaging in self-talk to “one day I will return home.” Meanwhile, occasions like Australia Day and other days of religious and cultural significance initiate a depressed and often angry response as the individual is compelled to acknowledge that they have ‘deserted’ their country for a better future. There is a concurrent bargaining process whereby the professional skilled migrant , whether at the conscious or unconscious level, begins to justify monetary gains and future prospects of professional growth, with acceptance.
Strategies that may assist newly arrived professional skilled migrants may include acquainting themselves with, or forming a network of like-minded skilled professionals from their country of origin. The workplace can also help by
providing opportunities to interact with migrants form different countries and perhaps initiating community circles.
Recent advances in web 2.0 technologies have revolutionised the way we interact with each other through tools like facebook™ and skype™ and these can assist in narrowing the distances that have kept families apart. If used cautiously, these resources can help reach the acceptance phase quicker, therefore resolving the cultural grieving process. However, depending on the age at migration, the experience of specific phases of the grief cycle may continue to recur

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