'I Doubt Myself and Am Losing Everything I Have since COVID Came' : A Case Study of Mental Health and Coping Strategies among Undocumented Myanmar Migrant Workers in Thailand

Khai TUAL SAWN, Muhammad ASADUZZAMAN*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

Abstract

Migrant populations have always been vulnerable to a high burden of social exclusion, mental disorders, physical illnesses, and economic crises. The current COVID-19 pandemic has further created a frantic plight among them, particularly for undocumented migrant workers in the global south. We have conducted a mixed method study among the undocumented Myanmar migrant workers (UMMWs) in Thailand to explore how the COVID-19 disruption has impacted their mental health and what coping strategies they have adopted. Following the onset of COVID-19 and the recent coup d’état in Myanmar, our current study is the first attempt to understand the mental health status and predicament of this neglected migrant group. A total of 398 UMMWs were included in the online survey, of which 23 participated in qualitative interviews. The major mental health issues reported by the study participants were depression, generalized anxiety disorder, frustration, stress, and panic disorders, while loss of employment, worries about the pandemic, social stigma, lack of access to healthcare, lockdown, and fear of detention were the predominant contributing factors. In response, we identified two key coping mechanisms: coping at a personal level (listening to music, playing online game, praying, and self-motivation) and coping at a social level (chatting with family and friends and visiting religious institutions). These findings point to the importance of policy and intervention programs aimed at upholding mental health at such humanitarian conditions. Sustainable institutional mental health care support and social integration for the migrant workers, irrespective of their legal status, should be ensured.
Original languageEnglish
Article number15022
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Volume19
Issue number22
Early online date15 Nov 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2022

Bibliographical note

This research received no external funding, and the APC was funded by the Norwegian Research School of Global Health (NRSGH).

Ethical approval was obtained from the Postgraduate Student Committee (PSC) of Lingnan University in Hong Kong.

Keywords

  • migrant health
  • undocumented migrants
  • COVID-19
  • mental health
  • coping strategy
  • Myanmar
  • Thailand
  • mixed method

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