Study: Undocumented Immigrants Are at Big Risk of Mental Health Disorders

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Being Latino in America can be stressful.

Being a Latino immigrant can be even more stressful, with daily struggles of discrimination, fear of deportation, and cultural identity that can affect your mental health.

A new study led by Luz Garcini, postdoctoral fellow at Rice University, looked into the mental health of undocumented immigrants living near the border in California (38.9% Latino).

Garcini, just like her research participants, fled violence from her native country Mexico, to come to the United States. Luz learned though that not all immigrants are fortunate.

The work that Garcini has done is the first of its kind to prove the prevalence showing extremely high rates of mental illness among undocumented people versus the U.S population.

Study Findings

Garcini and her team interviewed 248 undocumented immigrants in the San Diego area.

The study found that 23% of adult undocumented immigrants who live by the border are at risk for mental health disorders.

The most common disorders being depression and anxiety. With 14% of undocumented immigrants meeting the criteria for depression, and 7% for anxiety. Substance abuse was at the same level as the general U.S population.

When looking at the entire undocumented population, they concluded about a quarter are at risk for psychological distress.

Undocumented stress haunts all immigrants in the United States. Stress from having to flee their home country and leave behind family, to discrimination once they enter their new home country.

We're talking about a very resilient population—a population that relies on their work, their spirituality, the social support of families, even though they might not be here, to deal with all this stress.

Dr. Luz Garcini
Rice Academy Affiliate Fellow

Young people under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) are especially vulnerable because of “self-identity conflict”, according to Garcini. These young kids are trying to find themselves through education, but find themselves understanding that they will not be like their U.S. born peers. The National Latino/a Psychological Association has composed a resource document, to help build strength for Latinos, DACA recipients, and those who support them.

Children are affected by the same stressors that their undocumented parents experience. The migration experience causes increased stress, anxiety, and depression in Latino children, according to Mental Health Research by Salud America!.

Post-migration stressors according to the Mental Health Research include: changes in social status, language barrier frustration, conflicting values and attempts at acculturation, isolation, discrimination, and feelings of uncertainty about the future regarding immigration status.” The strongest post-migration difficulty that predicts mental disorders is discrimination,” Garcini explains.

Dr. Luz Garcini is currently conducting a confidential online survey to learn more about Dreamers mental health effects following recent anti-immigration policies.

Read more on DACA and mental health effects.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Anxiety, Depression

By The Numbers By The Numbers

22

PERCENT

of Latino youth have depressive symptoms (a rate higher than most other groups).

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