CHICAGO — Rohingya refugees in Chicago are facing stress and anxiety after escaping violence in Myanmar.

There’s an estimated 1,500 Rohingya Muslims currently living in the city amid the ongoing violence in the Southeast Asian nation, the Chicago Tribune reported .

Hasan Korimullah, 15, is among those who have resettled in Chicago. He said he was about 8 or 9 when he witnessed his mother’s death. Hasan said that although he’s lived in the U.S. for two years, he still can’t forget the moment he lost his mother.

“It was so difficult for me,” Hasan said of his first few months in Illinois. “I could not learn.”

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in November labeled the Myanmar government’s actions against the Rohingya as ethnic cleansing.

Since late August, more than 630,000 Rohingya people have fled attacks by the military and local militias in the country’s Rakhine state. The group Doctors Without Borders has estimated that 6,700 Rohingya died between August and September.

The collective weight of current anxieties and past traumas has impacted many refugees’ mental health. Many of them become anxious and stressed after receiving updates from family and friends, or through social media.

Anne Saw is the assistant professor of clinical-community psychology at DePaul University. She said exposure to these updates can also be damaging.

“With social media and how connected we all are, refugees, where there is still ongoing conflict, don’t get away from the trauma,” Saw said.

DePaul, University of Illinois at Chicago and the Rohingya Culture Center, recently secured a $50,000 award from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute to develop culturally relevant mental health programs for Rohingya refugees.

“A lot of them have just been walking around with these stories and perspectives, and not having any outlets,” said Rohan Jeremiah, assistant professor of community health sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health. “One of the most powerful things I’ve ever heard from several of the men . is that they thanked me, saying ‘No one has ever asked me to tell them what (my) story was.'”

Since late August, more than 630,000 Rohingya people have fled attacks by the military and local militias in the country’s Rakhine state. The group Doctors Without Borders has estimated that 6,700 Rohingya died between August and September.


Information from: Chicago Tribune, http://www.chicagotribune.com