Culture as a Double-Edged Sword: The Posttraumatic Experience of Indigenous Ethnic Minority Veterans

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Abstract

The applicability of Western concepts regarding the treatment of trauma in soldiers from indigenous ethnic minority backgrounds has scarcely been researched. This study explored the subjective meaning of living with chronic posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among indigenous Bedouin veterans of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), who are of Arab ethnicity and Muslim faith. In-depth, semistructured qualitative interviews were conducted with 10 Bedouin veterans suffering from PTSD and three Bedouin mental health clinicians working with this population. Two themes emerged: “I wanted to be like everyone else,” referring to participants’ experiences during their military service, and “Fluctuating between belonging and abandonment,” referring to veterans’ experiences of living with mental health problems in a traditional minority community. These findings highlight the importance of conducting a comprehensive inquiry into the complex cultural and social backgrounds of indigenous minority veterans suffering from PTSD, and the interplay between the conflicted identities and multiple “realities” they experience.

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