In United States, the land of immigrants, immigration policy has always been a controversial topic. An increase in the number of people seeking refuge in the country has also seen a surge in the discussions surrounding the immigration policy. While the debate often centers on the economic effects of the movement, mental and psychological concerns of those affected are often ignored.
According to the 2016 data from U.S. Census Bureau 2016 data, over 43 million people are foreign-born with approximately 21 million naturalized U.S. citizens and 22 million who are not the citizens of the country. Some of the reasons for people moving to the U.S. include the search for a better livelihood, reunion with family members, and desire for protection from violence, persecution risks, wars and environmental disasters. The wide range of cultures, ethnicity, races, beliefs and practices poses a challenge to health care providers.
Taking into account an increasing number of migrants in the world, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed December 18 as the International Migrants Day on Dec. 4, 2000. The day is observed across many countries whereby individuals, organizations and governments distribute information on human rights and the fundamental freedoms of migrants. For 2017, the theme of the day is “Safe Migration in a World on the Move.” This year also marks the 27th anniversary of the UN’s International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.
Mental health challenges faced by immigrants
The process that involves separation from one’s place of origin, family and friends coupled with the exposure to a new physical environment and unfamiliar cultural contexts puts migrants at the risk of developing or aggravating mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and substance use disorders.
Here are some of the other challenges faced by immigrants:
- Cultural challenges: Immigrants often have to adapt themselves to a different set of beliefs and traditional practices. A multidimensional process, acculturation involves change in many aspects of the lives of immigrants, including social customs, language, education, food and music preferences as well as challenges pertaining to cultural and ethnic identity. Owing to these changes, many immigrants feel lonely and hopeless, and are confronted with family conflict and a change in gender role.
- Employment challenges: Immigrants also have to face occupational challenges that may lead to anger, frustration and sense of worthlessness. If someone is already battling depression and anxiety, lack of employment opportunities can aggravate intimate partner violence and disrupt familial happiness.
- Racism and discrimination-based problems: This is a major factor with serious implications on an immigrant’s sense of well-being. Colored people often experience discrimination or are victims of aggression. They also have to undergo a compromised sense of security, lack of belongingness, and decreased access to mental and physical health services.
- Fear and uncertainty: For immigrant families, increased fear and uncertainty about deportation and their legal status can have a severe negative effect on health and well-being of children and adults alike. Affected parents can pass down their fears to children unknowingly, who may find it hard to cope in school/college, develop good friendships and maintain a good academic record. Children are also at increased risk of poor brain development leading to functional and cognitive deficiencies. It may take years for such families to adjust to their surroundings and some, in fact, may never be able to. All this can lead to their decreased participation in Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and other programs.
In addition to economic issues, culture shock, feelings of loss and yearning for separated loved ones contribute to distress and worsen the mental health of immigrants. While some muster courage to seek health care services, many are left undiagnosed or untreated due to various barriers. Their own fears and stigma attached to mental disorders further distance them from living a healthy, happy and respectable life.
Get good mental health
A leading behavioral health care provider, Sovereign Health provides individualized treatment for a variety of behavioral health and mental disorders through a holistic combination of medications and psychotherapies to all our patients irrespective of their nationality or ethnicity. In addition to traditional clinically approved methods, our state-of-the-art treatment centers spread across the country employ experiential therapies like meditation, yoga, expressive arts and equine therapy. For more information on the evidence-based treatment modalities offered by our expert staff, call our 24/7 helpline (855) 969-5557 or chat online with our representative.