This report describes treatment over a period of 6 years of Mien refugees from highland Laos in the Indochinese Psychiatric Program of the Oregon Health Sciences University (Portland, OR). The medical and psychiatric problems of 84 patients were presented through somatic symptoms such as headache, dizziness, or musculoskeletal pain. Primary care medical problems were identified and treated, with the major focus on the two most common psychiatric diagnoses: major depression and posttraumatic stress disorder. Cultural beliefs about illness and medication interfered with adherence to prescribed treatment. A marked sensitivity to side effects of certain antidepressants also resulted in subtherapeutic doses. Patients rarely volunteered their traumatic histories, psychiatric problems, or dissatisfaction with medications. However, the effective use of medication for somatic complaints, along with the continuing recognition of Mien health beliefs in psychosocial treatments, allowed for the development of a trusting doctor-patient relationship and continued psychiatric care.
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