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Home » Child/Adolescent Mental Health » Who’s At Risk? » Refugees » Bosnia/Herzegovina

Bosnia/Herzegovina

Bosnia Herzegovina is situated on Europe’s Balkan Peninsula, which is about the size of West Virginia.  It is divided between two entities with the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (primarily Bosnian Croats and Muslims) in the west and the Serb Republic (primarily Bosnian Serbs) in the northeast region.

When Bosnia Herzegovina declared independence from the Communist Republic of Yugoslavia in 1992, ethnic tensions escalated with their neighbors, Croatia and Serbia.  Conflict and violence ensued between the three countries leading to the Bosnian War.  During the war, more than 250,000 Bosnians were killed and 1.8 million were displaced.  Today Vermont is home to more than 1,700 Bosnians.

Most Bosnians speak a Slavic language classified as Serbo-Croatian.  Bosnia is largely Muslim (approximately 50%) followed by a mix of Christian and Eastern Orthodox.  Islam is often associated with the Bosnians, Eastern Orthodox with the Serbs, and Catholicism with the Croatians.

Acute and chronic trauma, ‘loss of place,’  family disruptions, and problems of family reunification are issues of concern for civilian Bosnian populations and Bosnian refugees.  The war in Bosnia was characterized by massive violence, displacement, disruption and loss of life, relatives, and property.  Depression and post traumatic stress, feelings of powerlessness, anxiety, and self-doubt are all common experiences among refugees who have fled such atrocities.  Bosnians often overlook the possible mental health implication of their experiences.   This, combined with post-trauma symptoms common in refugees from war-torn countries, may prevent Bosnian refugees from seeking needed mental health information, support, and/or treatment.

Bosnia: Cultural Considerations in Working with Bosnian Refugees