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Mental Health Challenges of Immigrants

Updated: Apr 7, 2023

Pre-migration trauma, dangerous & difficult migration journey and having to cope in a new environment. When they finally arrive, they're labeled an illegal. Access to basic services like healthcare, education, financial struggles, and settling in poor living conditions. All these take their toll on the mental health of our new neighbors.

by Treazure Wilson

Volunteer Intern for Freedom Voice Reports

Immigration Rights

A senior psychology, major at Clark Atlanta University

Editor's Notes - Rarely a day goes by, where Breaking News does not cover a tragic story of law enforcement and a member of the minority community. Hardly, a company is immune to the costly results of misunderstanding between management and their employees. Employees who all carry their own sensitivities from their life experiences from many countries, many cultures and much baggage. . In this report Treazure Wilson tries to bring us all a little closer together in understanding and with effort, we can bridge those differences. .

For people who are migrating no two experiences are the same, however, many of them face or have faced trauma over there during travel before or after. The state of each person's mental health is slowly changing after experiencing different traumatic events.

4 Different Stages of Mental Trauma


1. Pre-migration trauma is when people can experience traumas before their move. Those events that can influence their decision to leave their home might include but are not limited to violence, poverty, persecution, or exposure to armed conflicts.

"It looks strange to be alive and wander the streets as if one was dead. A city that was always known and famous for its high temperature and it boasted of a happy and cheerful people, suddenly transformed into a ghostly and horrifying hell."

Quote from a migrant

2. Travel and transit; people can also experience trauma during the actual journey that they are taking. This could involve violence, detention, force, labor, or lack of access to basic services.

3. Post migration, trauma; people can experience trauma with barriers in being able to access basic services like healthcare, education, financial struggles, and poor living conditions.

4. Integration and settlement; this can include poor living conditions, changes to gender religion culture, changing policies in host countries, racism

Loss of Self

Although there are different time periods in which trauma can be experienced during the

migration journey, there are also some key factors that go into causing the trauma. Lots of familiarity and identity; moving to a new place someone can lose their familiar culture and social structure, causing a form of grief referred to as cultural bereavement.

Something else that plays a part in this is lack of tools and resources to cope in the new environment; when arriving to a host country, migrants might not have access to the tools and resources required to help them adjust to a new place. This could be a language, barrier, financial constraints or lack of knowledge of the surrounding area.

Lastly, is violence assault and loss of family members; refugees and many migrants can experience assault abuse or violence, either during the process, or before the journey.

Effects on Children & Bullying

Children may also experience different traumas that could have effects on them later in

adulthood. For children, they can experience discrimination and racism, economic deprivation, and lack of security and stability because it’s a trauma for children. Children that have been separated from their parents as part of their migration at a higher risk of developing anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation.


According to UNICEF, "Migrant and refugee children face higher rates of bullying".

Bullying in America can also lead to violations of a range of other human rights.

Feelings of being isolated, disliked, ignored, of being different.

Examples of Discrimination

Make fun of accent

Make fun of Skin Color

Dealing with the Trauma

As are all the ways that you can experience and deal with different types of trauma, how are the people experiencing the trauma supposed to cope and manage having access to heritage culture, as well as host culture is important for migrants who may be dealing with trauma. Access to basic services, employment and social support, as well as family reunification can help counter the trauma. But overall what they really need is long term support with mental health and community spaces, while it wont erase it it will help them in the long run.

There are many factors that can cause trauma among immigrants and supporting them is vital. Research has made it clear that a lot of migrants have gone through trauma on their journeys and we need to support them more. Helping lower the trauma rates.

new immigrants

Are we creating situations of homelessness and poverty. Where the new immigrant becomes a second class citizens with lower pay and less chances. For Human trafficking and drugs. Are we creating for the new immigrant the very same nightmare situation that they have escaped from?

Dynamic process, immigrant experience

We know that many immigrants face trauma on their way from one place to the next, and

this trauma results in various mental health issues.

I will be addressing what mental issues can be experienced due to the trauma, as well as the symptoms and information about treatment options. In order to understand, it is necessary to understand the acceleration, clinical psychologist and

Director of mental health counseling program in Boston doctor Usha Tamala Narra describes it as

“ the dynamic process, immigrant experience as they adapt to a new country” conditions of the new home country are strangely connected to the health and well-being of immigrants.

Types of Trauma

Trauma can be an event or circumstances, resulting in physical, emotional or life-

threatening harm. The circumstances can have lasting adverse effects on mental, physical and emotional health, as well as social well-being.

Some of the mental issues the immigrants can face are post traumatic stress syndrome, substance, use disorders, anxiety, and depression. PTSD can develop after a very frightening event, or prolonged traumatic experience. Some symptoms can include intrusive thoughts and memories, including nightmares, and flashbacks avoidance, negative thoughts, moods, and feelings. Some can last for years and often don’t get better unless treated. Well, some people may not develop clinical PTSD. They can struggle with anxiety issues. Some symptoms of anxiety include restlessness, lack of concentration, unwanted thoughts, and irritability. Depression is a condition associated with elevated or lowering of a person's overall mood that has many sub categories at different levels. Some symptoms of depression is in diary loss of interest, hopelessness, excesses

sleepiness, insomnia , lack of concentration, thoughts of suicide weight loss and gain.

Prevention and Treatment Needed

With all the mental health issues that are caused by trauma, there needs to be a focus on

prevention and treatment. And the prevention and treatment of mental health attention should go to the groups where some symptoms can be common. This would include refugees in asylum-seekers, elders, those who migrated at an older age, financial difficulties, and people who have lived in the area for a short period of time. Trying to heal from the effects of trauma. You have to try resolving the unpleasant feelings and memories. A specialist may use some of these approaches for treatment; cognitive behavioral therapy, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. Although the treatment is available for immigrants, some of them face barriers that prevent them from doing so. They are less likely to access mental treatment than their counterparts. The lack of education and stigma on mental illnesses and health, as well as the way an individual talks about their illness can have them foregoing to seek help and treatment. Access to mental

health services, accessibility as well as cultural sensitivity in services needs to be addressed; this would mean giving access to mental health services that exist, this is assured by providing appropriate information in the customer's mother tongue or through an interpreter and that the person accepts the service provided.

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