Immigrants And Mental Illness

Mental Health Of Immigrants And Refugees

Border crossings. Family visits. Coming in the legal way. Despite the method of arrival, it is important to recognize the mental illness suffered by immigrants on their long journey into a new country. To ignore it is to be naive and ignorant of another human’s mental health.

There is no doubt that when a person leaves their country behind and flees with a couple of hundreds of dollars and a little hungry boy to take care of, their chance of developing a mental illness skyrockets. The act of leaving takes courage but also brings a lot of anxiety upon traveling towards a foreign land, with no certainty of the final outcome.

Many immigrants also battle depression after leaving their country. At first, they may seem excited to leave their old life behind, but as reality catches up, depressive symptoms also begin to appear. On a long and unknown journey, their appetite may decrease, their sleep may become fragmented, their interest in activities may plummet, their guilt of leaving their families behind may increase and they may even begin experiencing suicidal thoughts.

On the other hand, it is important not to discount immigrants with psychotic disorders who pose a threat to those around them. Many stories have appeared on the news about illegal immigrants kidnapping, murdering and even raping young females. Should immigrants with psychotic disorders be barred from entering a new country?

Some would argue that we need to provide care for all; mental health has no boundaries. While others would argue that immigrants with psychotic disorders should receive the help they need prior to immigrating to a new country. The reality is that many immigrants may have an undiagnosed psychotic illness that becomes apparent once they have arrived to their final destination.

It is important to bear in mind that mental health should not be discounted in immigrants leaving their country to seek a better life. The same way in which immigrants undergo medical evaluations upon their arrival in a new country, is the same recognition and attention that mental health deserves. To ignore mental health in this population is to allow violence and suicide to spread like wildfire.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)


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