25 years in coaching, case management, social work and therapy.
According to the Pew Research Center, there are more immigrants in the United States than any other country across the globe.1 In fact, just about every country is represented in the U.S.
Despite what some politicians say, rates of immigration today are lower than in the past, as the highest record was 14.8% of the population in 1890, when there were 9.2 million immigrants.
There are a variety of reasons why people decide to immigrate to the U.S. including:
Expulsion as a result of war.
Better work or educational opportunities.
Given such diversity in where immigrants come from and why they decide to move, this immigration experience varies depending on the circumstances individuals face.
Impact on Mental Health
Considering the reasons for immigration, it is easy to see how such decisions can increase stress on folx and have a substantial impact on mental health.
Any discussion of immigrants would be incomplete without also acknowledging the reality that refugees face. Many have often dealt with trauma in their home countries, prompting folx to move to the U.S. in search of safety.
In a systematic review of the mental health services utilized by immigrants in the U.S., research demonstrated that folx from Asia, Latin America, and Africa made use of these services at lower rates than non-immigrants—despite an equal or greater need for them. These rates were even lower among men, the uninsured, and the undocumented.
These studies shed light on such structural barriers including:
A lack of insurance
Language barriers (many services offered were not available in immigrants' native tongues)
The value of social support is worth noting as the folx who accessed mental health resources often did so after reaching out to family, friends, etc.
The Healthy Immigrant Effect refers to how immigrants tend to be more healthy than those who are native to the country they've moved to but their physical health decreases over time. According to research, this also applies to mental health, as older immigrants showed poorer mental health outcomes on three measures, compared to their U.S.-born peers.4
In a study of school-linked mental health services for immigrant and refugee children, even when interventions managed to engage with families, trauma‐informed therapy failed to address the impacts of poverty, discrimination, and cultural adaptation. Additionally, participants reported that economic stressors were the most detrimental to their health.5
In this way, it is crucial to understand the limits of individual mental health services when the experiences of immigrants are negatively impacted by xenophobia (and white supremacy if folx are BIPOC) which tends to result in discrimination and poverty.