Vietnam is a coastal country that borders Southern China and the South China Sea. It is a socialist republic with a population of about 85 million people. Due to years of war, the people of Vietnam have experienced extended poverty, persecution, racism, and isolation.
During the Vietnam War, Southern Vietnam was supported by the United States. In fact, of the approximately three million Vietnamese who relocated overseas from Vietnam, the vast majority live in the United States. Many Vietnamese refugees and immigrant families have resettled in Vermont since the 1980′s. Currently over 1,000 Vietnamese refugees live in Vermont.
Vietnamese is the national and official language of Vietnam. Approximately 60% of Vietnamese people are Buddhists. Smaller percentages practice Confucianism, Taoism, or Roman Catholicsm.
Post-traumatic stress and other types of anxiety are of particular concern among Vietnamese refugees due to the conditions many of them endured through years of war, imprisonment, violence, isolation, relocation, and loss. There is a strong stigma against mental illness among many Vietnamese. Substance abuse and depression, for example, are considered “social evils” rather than brain-based biological disorders, limiting a person’s access to appropriate mental health assessment, support, and treatment.
While the immigration of Vietnamese refugees was at its highest in the late 1990′s and early 2000′s, and many Vietnamese children in our community were never in Vietnam nor in the refugee camps, they remain at risk for mental health issues if they have grown up in families where the parents have untreated mental health problems.