JFS Perspectives

Monday, September 14, 2020

The Importance of Mental Health Services for Immigrants and Refugees



The Importance of Mental Health Services for Immigrants and Refugees

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 communities and make sense of any challenges they may face. Many refugees need treatment to recover from physical abuse, untreated health conditions, trauma, stress, cultural demands, discrimination, fear, and uncertainty. Unfortunately, many immigrants who need mental health services the most are unable to access them due to financial limitations or language barriers.

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.

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

Social distancing and general fears from the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a spike in anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts. 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 front lines as delivery drivers, grocery store stockers, farmers, employees in meat-processing facilities, and more. Additionally, many do not have access to proper healthcare;unbiased, culturally and linguistically appropriate informational resources; and personal protective equipment.

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 time. COVID-19 has affected everyone, and we can’t forget that this includes migrant workers, immigrants, refugees, and others on the fringes of our society.

The Political Climate and What It Means for Immigrants

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

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.

Precarious refugee mental health situations can stem from:

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

Roughly one in 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 by contacting us.

Transitioning into a New Culture Can Be Challenging

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.

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-level mental health treatment from trained psychologists to move forward and acclimate well to their new home.

At Jewish Family Service, we’re doing all we can to support immigrant and refugee mental health during this chaotic time. We offer teletherapy 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 by providing vital services to vulnerable individuals and families.

If you or someone you know is experiencing stress or trauma and would like to speak to a mental health professional, contact us at centralintake@jewishfamilyservice.org or 720.248.4701.

META DESCRIPTION: ​Social distancing and general fears from the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a spike in anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts. 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. Learn more about Jewish Family Service's Refugee Mental Health services.