Social constructions of mental health among Romani in Ukraine

Gorbunova, Viktoriia; Gusak, Natalia; Klymchuk, Vitalii; Kondur, Zemfira; Valeriia, Paliy; Popenko, Viola and Oates, John (2021). Social constructions of mental health among Romani in Ukraine. Mental Health and Social Inclusion, 25(2) pp. 123–133.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1108/MHSI-12-2020-0081

Abstract

Purpose: The purpose of this study is to characterize the social and cultural context of the social construction of mental health (MH) by members of Romani communities in Ukraine.

Design/methodology/approach: The research collected qualitative data to gain a better understanding of how Romani communities in Ukraine view the social and cultural factors influencing mental health. This paper analyzes data from focus groups in Romani communities in Ukraine (from six different oblasts) from February to March 2020. A total of 49 persons 19–75 years of age participated in the research, including 17 men and 32 women.

Findings: This study identifies four clusters of perceived social determinants of Romani mental health, these being employment, financial difficulties, level of education and discrimination. The findings indicate specific cultural characteristics of the Romani community that are seen as helping to support mental health. Family values, mutually supporting and referring to other members of the community are seen as especially important. Such social cohesion is believed to have a positive effect on the mental health of members of the Romani community. This paper discusses the implications of the study and suggests possible avenues for future data-driven policymaking in the area of mental health that take account of the culturally-specific meanings of mental health for these communities.

Originality/value: Given the significant gaps, shortages and, in some cases, complete lack of data on Romani ethnic and cross-cultural psychology, research is urgently needed to fill this gap. Lack of understandings of how Romani construct mental health can lead to badly-matched, misplaced or ineffective actions and distrust. This paper aims to support better understandings of Romani among MH service providers and enhancing the mutual engagement of Romani and MH services, supporting the broader agenda of social inclusion of Romani people.

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