Exploring the impact of risk and protective factors on the experiences of refugee youth living in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal.
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The following study aims to provide an in-depth understanding of risk and protective factors experienced by refugee youth from the Democratic Republic of Congo residing in South Africa and their impact on the mental health of the group. The lived experiences and the mental health status and problems of adult refugees living in South Africa are well documented; however much less is known about the lived experiences and mental health status and problems of refugee youth living in South Africa. Refugee youth living in South Africa face a number of challenges due to a high level of risk factors in their daily lives. Risks can be moderated by protective factors. Protective factors reduce the impact of risk factors and act as coping mechanisms which youth use to cope with their everyday challenges. The interaction between risk and protective factors are important as they influence youth’s mental health status. Responses to stress can be internalized or externalized problems resulting in a compromised mental health status. If responded to appropriately it can result in prosocial behaviour. The Social Development Model (SDM) was used as the theoretical framework for the project. The model was used to provide an in-depth understanding of the interactions between risk and protective factors and the impact these factors have on mental health of refugee youth. The study was qualitative where data was collected in the form of individual semi-structured interviews with eight refugee youth from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) currently living in Durban. The sample was selected through convenience and purposive sampling techniques from a larger group from the same population. Study questions were based on the main risk and protective factors that are present to participants’ lives, including those related to structural violence. The findings of the study were analyzed and presented through thematic analysis. The study revealed several key findings related to the impact of xenophobia and financial difficulties. The results of the study showed that the young women tend to internalize problems resulting in more emotional and psychological distress such as social withdrawal, anxiety and fear and young men showed both internalized and externalized problems such as fear, avoidance, poor concentration, physical violence and so forth. Altruistic tendencies, empathy and sympathy were found in both male and female participants. These prosocial behaviours were as a result of the interaction between the risk and protective factors present in the youth’s lives.