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Mental illness and migration stress : an analytical study of a comparative groups of German immigrants and Canadian-born patients, hospitalized at the Crease Clinic of Psychological Medicine, Essondale, British Columbia, 1953-1958 Damm, Eva Berthe Martha


This study deals with that minority segment of the German immigration population which, as evidenced by hospitalization for mental illness, has failed to make a satisfactory adjustment in Canada. Heavy environmental demands of a new country, or personal and social inadequacies, or a combination of both factors, have been held responsible for such failures. This exploratory study seeks to throw light on either interpretation. It examines clinical information, and suggests ways of analyzing case histories so that environmental and personal factors contributing to mental illness, can be more closely investigated. For the purpose of intensive study, ten case records of German immigrants were carefully selected, and were compared with those of twenty Canadian-born patients chosen on the same basis of elimination. The material available was analyzed, and classified with a view to underlining the correlating or diverging factors in the functioning of both groups. The extracted findings led to an assessment scheme in the areas of economic and work capacities, social and personal factors, applicable to individual patients and to comparable groups. A rating scale was designed which could become a measuring tool for present or future functional capacities. In spite of the small numbers used and of the analytical limitations, this attempt resulted in some well-marked similarities and deviations. To supplement this method, two composite examples of patients, reflecting causative influences in the social diagnosis, are presented. The outstanding result of this study is the emergence of similarities rather than differences between the German and Canadian patient groups. This suggests that the impact of immigration stress cannot be solely responsible for mental illness in the German group. Migration to a completely unfamiliar country, it is assumed, renders certain dormant inadequacies, for example in social relations, more prominent than a pattern of mobility or instability in one's native country would do. However, in both groups there is also the indication of low-grade functioning in economic, social and personal areas, and evidence that personal, as well as precipitating situational forces, could be accountable for mental illness in both. This experimental study strongly suggests the need for further research in this field along the same lines. However, some social work implications can be, and have been drawn from the study.

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