Migration-Related Stressors and Suicidal Ideation in North Korean Refugee Women: The Moderating Effects of Network Composition

Mee Young Um, Eric Rice, Lawrence A. Palinkas, Hee Jin Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Alarmingly high rates of suicidal ideation have been reported in North Korean (NK) refugee women living in South Korea. This population often endures traumatic experiences and violence in North Korea as well as human trafficking and sexual exploitation in intermediary countries. Following resettlement in South Korea, NK refugee women continue facing multiple hardships, such as discrimination, that can negatively affect their mental health and contribute to suicidality. Support from social networks can buffer the harmful impacts of pre- and postmigration stressors on mental health in NK refugee women. Using the stress-buffering hypothesis, the present study examined the moderating effects of network composition (i.e., network diversity and church-based ties) on the associations among premigration trauma, postmigration discrimination, and suicidal ideation in NK refugee women living in South Korea. Participants (N = 273) were NK refugee women living in South Korea who were 19 years of age or older; 34.4% of the participants reported past-year suicidal ideation. The study results indicated that network diversity significantly moderated the association between postmigration discrimination and suicidal ideation, p =.031, whereas networks with church-based ties significantly moderated the association between premigration trauma and suicidal ideation, p =.026. The present findings support the hypothesis that social ties can buffer the appraisal of migration-related stressors on suicidality. These findings have implications for practitioners serving vulnerable populations that experience multiple traumatic events.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Traumatic Stress
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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