Mental health problems among the Swedish reindeer-herding Sami population in perspective of intersectionality, organisational culture and acculturation
Abstract: The overall objective of the thesis was to investigate aspects of mental health among Swedish Sami reindeer herders and to deepen the understanding of the experience of the living conditions of young Sami reindeer-herding men. Theories of intersectionality, organisational culture and acculturation were used.Methods A questionnaire covering different aspects of mental health was distributed to the Sami population, including the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS), the Alcohol Use Disorder Identification Test, selected parts of the Attitudes Towards Suicide questionnaire (ATTS) and the Job Control Questionnaire (JCQ). 15 interviews with young male reindeer-herders were conducted and analysed according to qualitative content analysis. Results A higher load of anxiety and depression was found in the Sami population, most evident regarding anxiety and among middle aged reindeer-herding men. Regarding alcohol risk consumption reindeer-herding Sami do not in general drink more than a geographically matched reference population, but reindeer-herding men reported a higher proportion of hazardous drinkers, and of teetotallers and periodic drinkers. The reindeer-herding population reported significantly higher exposure to suicide and suicidal behaviour among significant others. Reindeer-herds also reported higher prevalence of different types of suicidal problems. The main theme that emerged in qualitative analysis was ‘Being a young reindeer herder means so many (impossible) dreams and conditions’, and the five subthemes were ‘Being inside or outside is a question of identity’, ‘There is a paradox between being free/unfree’, ‘An experience of different threats and a feeling of powerlessness’, ‘Specific norms for how a ‘real’ reindeer-herder should be’ and ‘The different impacts and meanings of relations’. Conclusions The thesis hypothesizes that the reindeer-herding right as an including, excluding and enclosing historically induced border plays an important part when trying to understand the mental health problems in the group. At present, the situation within reindeer-herding is strained because of practical obstacles and feelings of unfairness and uninfluencability. Furthermore, lack of social support, except from the closest part of the family, and experiences of multi-layered conflicts. This – together with norms of reindeer-herding and reindeer-herders that e.g. say that the reindeer herder is a man who doesn’t show weakness – plays a role in the present mental health problems of the Swedish reindeer-herding population. This applies especially to young and middle-aged reindeer-herding men.
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