The Mental Health of Migrants Should Be on All of Our Minds

By Samuel Paramore, OCIYU 

How’s that “new year, new me” pledge working out three weeks in? Regardless of resolutions, it’s a new year and the same damn presidential administration. When the personal is political, anxiety and depression caused by injustices threaten to derail efforts to dismantle them at the root by fostering a fractured people. Making matters worse, while the White House’s immigration policies inflicted trauma on detainees, they also withheld mental care from them.

Take the court case of Ms. JP v. Sessions. Plaintiffs in the lawsuit fought for proper mental health screening for children and parents who were and currently are detained by the Department of Homeland Security. The Trump Administration adjudicated their responsibility by stating detention centers only had to provide the most basic care, and that it’d be unclear who would need such screenings after being released.

Of course, the experience of being detained leaves all who are put though its hell in need of therapy and even those undocumented who’ve never been arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have a high likelihood of needing the same help. The trauma inflicted by the assaults, living conditions, and inhumanity towards those locked up is easy enough to understand. Consider, as well, the stress churning in the stomachs of those who are always in fear that any day, they, too, could be subject to the same. Consider seeing echoes of your loved ones in videos of asylum seekers being tear gassed, or in the now lifeless body of Jakelin Caal Maquin and Felipe Gómez Alonzo.

Undocumented folks, of course, are far from alone on matters of migration and mental health in the United States. Other immigrants and refugees have the potential to start showing symptoms of mental ailments over years of residing here. Unfortunately, the demand of mental health programs where these issues are the focus doesn’t create the supply alone. Political controversy prevents a lot of work from being put into understanding what adjustments to evaluation and therapy need to work for undocumented, and yes, all people of color.

Given that, in this new year, what should our efforts be to find a way to truly heal and encompass our pain in healthy manners to strengthen community and ourselves? The answer, itself, always lays with community, itself. Gerard’s House, a Santa Fe, New Mexico nonprofit, began a therapy program dedicated to undocumented parents and children where they can talk about family members separated by deportation and unload their pain in a understanding space.

Despite the deep scars on the undocumented conscious, connecting our issues with each other may provide a level of relief that can push back tenfold, and ease not only an immigrant’s aches, but their collective anguish as well. Now, that’s a resolution worth keeping.

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