Illegal immigrants at greater risk for mental disorders, finds study - Sovereign Health Group
Articles / Blog
08-24-17 Category: Mental Health

The 21st century is witness to a large number of people leaving their own lands to live in a different country. While many immigrants move to another country in search of employment and a better life, others are forced out of their country because of continual conflicts and fear of persecution. It’s an open secret that illegal immigrants usually risk their lives while crossing arduous and dangerous borders across nations. This results in a majority of them suffering from mental health problems like depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Now, a group of researchers at the Rice University has tried to highlight the plight of illegal immigrants in their study, titled “DREAMers Living in the United States: A Contextual Perspective and Clinical Implications.” The study published recently in The American Journal of Psychiatry suggests that immigrants who came to the U.S. when they were small children and meet the criteria of the Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act are more likely to suffer from psychological problems. Such immigrants are commonly known as DREAMers.

The findings of the study underscore the effect on mental health of those migrating to another country sans any proper documentation. The researchers conducted a survey of roughly 260 Mexican migrants who had been living illegally in areas characterized by high risk. Analysis of the participants aged 18-25 years revealed an estimated 63 percent at an increased likelihood of exhibiting symptoms of psychiatric disorders. In addition, more than 90 percent of them said about the nature of losses they incurred, including deprivation from one’s home and family members, and how such losses accounted for their emotional distress.

Elucidating the observations, lead author Luz Garcini said that DREAMers were often marginalized and lived in constant fear of deportation. Garcini said how complicated issues resulted in DREAMers being at high risk of developing mental illnesses. The fact that these stresses continue for prolonged periods adds to depleting quality of mental health. Inadequacy of mental health services further makes the things worse for migrants, the study noted.

The observations are important as they can aid in formulating and executing medical interventions aimed at complete recovery of immigrants, in addition to easing the efforts of community health workers advocating in favor of their good mental health. Stressing on the same, Garcini said, “As clinicians, we may contribute by devising solutions grounded in evidence and developing alternatives designed to facilitate access to culturally and contextually sensitive mental health services for these at-risk youths, which is critical to protecting their mental health and their basic human rights.”

Assessing how migration affects mind

Prior researches have indicated how migrants are more susceptible to grievous disorders of the mind, including psychosis. High incidence rate of psychosis has been found more among those belonging to the ethnic minority populations. Migration is associated with harsh conditions like discrimination on economic and social grounds, social isolation and exclusion from the main strata of society. In addition, the trauma of being uprooted from their original place of birth and living makes immigrants increasingly prone to acute emotional disorders like PTSD.

Dr. Bengt Arnetz, one of the authors of a study, titled “Elevated Striatal Dopamine Function in Immigrants and Their Children: A Risk Mechanism for Psychosis,” said, “Having a threat to your own life and insufficient resources to sustain your health, and being under extreme conditions, such as lacking food or shelter, were the two most important factors that could occur before they arrived in the United States.”

The fact that exceedingly disastrous and distressing social factors can result in increasing potential of people suffering from severe mental illnesses has compelled researchers to study into detail about possible causes and effects of mental diseases. While biological, genetic or environmental factors are usually held responsible for deeper pervasiveness of mental issues among certain sects of population, the effect of social conditions cannot be completely negated.

Seeking recovery from mental disorders

Mental disorders can affect anyone during any given point of time. If you or your loved one is struggling with any types of mental disorders, Sovereign Health can help. Call our 24/7 helpline to know about our state-of-the-art mental health institutions spread across California and other states of the U.S. You can also chat online with one of our representatives, who would be happy to answer all your queries.

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