2009 Research Award Recipients
The Impact of Ethnic Cleansing in Iraq on the Mental Health of Mandaean Refugees
Clinical Psychology, University of New South Wales
The ethnic cleansing ofthe Mandaeans in Iraq has been largely ignored. The current study aimed to evaluate the impact of fears for family remaining in Iraq in these circumstances on the mental health of Mandaean refugees in Australia. Adult Mandaean refugees (N = 315) from Iraq, living in Sydney, Australia, were interviewed regarding fear for family in Iraq, fear of genocide, pre-migration trauma, post-migration living difficulties and psychological outcomes. Participants with family in Iraq reported higher levels of symptoms of PTSD and depression, and greater mental health-related disability than those without family in Iraq. Intrusive fears about family independently predicted risk of PTSD, depression and disability after controlling for trauma exposure and current living difficulties. Threat to family members living in a context of ethnic cleansing predicted psychopathology and disability in Mandaean refugees. The effect of ongoing threat to family still living in conflict-ridden countries on the mental health of refugees should be further considered in the context of policy and health care.
Self Defining Memories in Complicated Grief
School of Psychology, University of New South Wales
There is increasing attention to the mechanisms underpinning maladaptive responses to bereavement. This study indexed self-defining memories in bereaved individuals with and without complicatedgrief (CG). Participants with and without complicated grief (N = 40) were asked to describe three self-defining memories. Results showed that CG participants provided more self-defining memories involving the deceased. Both groups were equally likely to report their loved one’s death as a self-defining moment, however, the no-CG group showed more evidence of benefit finding in their memory narratives and experienced less negative emotion on recall. The findings suggest that CG is associated with distinctive patterns of autobiographical memory that are linked to self-identity. The pattern is consistent with self-memory system models of autobiographical remembering, and suggests that grieving individuals who experience ongoing yearning for their loved one view their self-identity as more closely linked to the deceased are more distressed by memories involving the loss.
Global Distribution and availability of epidemiological data for posttraumatic stress disorder
University of Queensland, Masters in Public Health
The human mind uses two main pathways for processing memories and experiences. The explicit memory is how the mind relates to the conscious awareness of factual information while the implicit memory relates to the unconscious awareness in skill learning, habit formation and conditioning. When an individual experiences a traumatic event, the mind can process the event along both pathways abnormally which is thought to lead to the development of posttraumatic stress disorder(PTSD). As a result of the development of PTSD, an individual can experience a increased arousal and avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma. These include symptoms such as re-experiencing, intrusive thoughts, nightmares, flashbacks, amnesia and delayed recall. This study aims to review and critique the quality of prevalence data available for PTSD using a systematic review process. A better understanding of prevalence is important in order to develop strategies for preventing and targeting PTSD in high risk areas.