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Religiosity and mental health among the immigrants in Brasília

Marta Helena de Freitas (Department of Psychology, The Catholic University of Brasília, Brasília, Brazil)
Benedito Rodrigues dos Santos (Department of Psychology, The Catholic University of Brasília, Brasília, Brazil)

International Journal of Migration, Health and Social Care

ISSN: 1747-9894

Article publication date: 12 June 2017




The purpose of this paper is to address the relations between religiosity and mental health (MH) among the immigrants living in Brasília, as per the perceptions of MH service professionals.


It is grounded in empirical qualitative research based on semi-structured interviews with 12 professionals – six psychiatrists and six psychologists working in MH services throughout Brasília. The experiences and perceptions of these professionals were analysed in the light of phenomenological assumptions, and temporally situated in the historical context of the construction of Brazil’s capital city.


Results show that these professionals recognize the importance of immigrant support services paying attention to issues of religiosity connected to those of MH, in spite of never having received training on the theme in their qualification course work. They are critical of the oppressive aspects of some religions, but recognize the predominance of positive effects of religiosity.

Research limitations/implications

Albeit exploratory by nature, and with a limited number of study subjects, the study opens the way for more in-depth investigations of this rarely addressed MH issue and recommends its application to greater numbers of professionals and other contexts.

Practical implications

The results can contribute to the MH policy decision-making processes for the immigrant population in Brasília and also for training the professionals working in providing care for this population.

Social implications

To contribute to the development of a new MH model in which professionals can adopt a more open posture in regard to the traditional pathologizing models used to address the question of religious phenomena.


Albeit exploratory in nature, this study makes a contribution by opening the way for the issue of religiosity and its impacts on MH to become the object of more in-depth investigations conducted from a multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary perspective, targeting greater numbers of MH professionals and extended to other internal and external migratory contexts.



The authors acknowledge the Brazilian National Research Council – CNPq that sponsored the research in which this paper is based: “Religiosidade do Imigrante: Sintoma ou Saúde? Investigação com profissionais de saúde mental brasileiros e portugueses – RISS”, coordinated by Marta Helena de Freitas.


de Freitas, M.H. and dos Santos, B.R. (2017), "Religiosity and mental health among the immigrants in Brasília", International Journal of Migration, Health and Social Care, Vol. 13 No. 2, pp. 207-219.



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Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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