JFS Perspectives

Friday, June 19, 2020

Top Reasons Immigrant and Refugee Mental Health Solutions are Vital in America

Top Reasons Immigrant and Refugee Mental Health Solutions are Vital in America

According to the UN Refugee Agency, there are more refugees and forcibly displaced migrants today, than at any other time in history. They need our help and support more than ever.

Many individuals have sought shelter or a safer life here in America, but after crossing seas and borders, most immigrants and refugees still have a long way to go before they’ve fully adjusted to their new life. They’ve likely endured psychological trauma in the past, and as a new immigrant, they will likely face more in the future.

Mental health providers play an enormous role in helping migrant children and families settle into their new environment, as well as make sense of any challenges they may face. Many refugees need treatment to help recover from trauma, stress, cultural demands, discrimination, fear, and uncertainty. Unfortunately, many of the immigrants who need mental health services the most are unable to access them due to financial limitations or language barriers. We need better solutions!

At Jewish Family Service, we provide accessible mental health services for underserved refugees who have settled in Colorado. We believe it’s vital that we come together to support displaced families during these trying times. Let’s take a moment to discuss why refugees and asylum seekers might have a more difficult time in our current political and economic climate and how Jewish Family Service can help.

The COVID-19 Pandemic and Its Impact on Immigrants and Refugees

Social distancing and the general fear of the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a spike in anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts. It probably goes without saying, that everyone should be prioritizing their psychological health and have easy access to counseling services and mental health treatment.

Unfortunately, immigrants are uniquely vulnerable to the serious effects of this pandemic. It’s been estimated that roughly six million immigrant workers are manning the frontlines as delivery drivers, grocery store stockers, farmers, and more. Additionally, many do not have access to proper healthcare, informational resources, and/or protective gear.

Refugee populations could also be living in “camps” where the virus can circulate more easily in close quarters. As a result, many migrants could be at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 which can leave them feeling anxious or scared of the unknowns.

Jewish Family Service believes that mental health care isn’t just for the privileged – it should be for all who are struggling during this unprecedented period of history. COVID-19 has affected everyone, and we can’t forget that this includes migrant workers, immigrants, refugees, and others on the outskirts of our communities.

The Political Climate and What It Means for Immigrants

Without taking any kind of political stance, we can say with confidence that the current political climate has caused an immense amount of stress and anxiety amongst immigrants and refugees in America.

The Society of Clinical Psychology notes there are some serious differences between how diverse groups perceive mental health, as well as access services such as counseling when dealing with the stress of their new country. However, so many are struggling with huge burdens that would benefit immensely from therapy and other help.

As Carolina Valle from CPEHN said, “The current political climate and federal administration has really escalated a perilous mental health situation for immigrant communities. It’s crucial that public mental health advocates and policymakers learn the tools to become allies in the fight to expand access to mental health care.”

These dangerous refugee mental health situations can stem from:

  • Missed senses of belonging
  • Lack of cultural competency
  • Broken families and missed loved ones
  • Stigmas within the community
  • Harmful statements and news online or on TV
  • Stereotyping in-person and online
  • Discrimination from neighbors and others

Above all, anti-immigration policies and rhetoric have negatively impacted undocumented (and documented) immigrants across America. People deal with a long-term fear of deportation, which often results in anxiety, depression, or even trauma-related stress.

It might surprise you to hear that roughly one in every 10 Colorado residents is an immigrant. Chances are, someone you know is directly impacted by immigrant policies and news. If you sense that someone you know may be struggling, encourage them to seek professional help.

Transitioning into a New Culture Can Be Challenging

Last but not least, let’s talk about family adjustment. Moving to a new country is hard no matter what your circumstances may be, but it can be especially fear-inducing and challenging for immigrants and refugees.

Adults and children alike may need help adjusting to America once they arrive. Whether they’re experiencing culture shock, language barriers, or just general emotional anxiety upon arrival, it’s important that they have access to quality mental health services to get them through the transition.

Up to 15 percent of children living in immigrant families exhibit symptoms of depression. It’s extremely common for parents’ fears and uncertainties, as well as children’s stressful personal lives, to lead to unhealthy mental states and potential psychological trauma.

Children who have been affected by the family separation policy may also be dealing with acute psychological, social, and health problems. These juveniles likely require high-levels of mental health treatment from trained psychologists to move forward and acclimate well to their new home.

If you need to find counseling for kids (or teens) who are either immigrants or who come from immigrant or refugee families, talk to our team here at Jewish Family Service.

In Conclusion

At Jewish Family Service, we’re doing all we can to support immigrant and refugee mental health during this chaotic time. We offer teletherapy services and virtual wellness groups for people of all ages, both in and outside of the Denver area. Our staff is highly skilled and culturally aware, and they specialize in treating people from diverse backgrounds with mental health needs.

Our long-term goal is to strengthen our community through the provision of vital services to vulnerable individuals and families. If you arrived in America within recent years or even in 2020, please reach out – we welcome people from all faiths, races, ages, incomes, and abilities.

If you are not affected, but want to help, you can spread awareness of refugee and immigrant needs on World Refugee Day using hashtag #WithRefugees to pledge your support online and help people understand some of the difficulties people are facing worldwide.