Mental Health in Latino Communities: Combating The Negative Impacts of Border Wall Culture

latino communities

If there’s one thing that’s crystal clear, it’s that the President’s border wall initiative was far more than a structure establishing a physical boundary. No, instead it stands as a symbolic boundary that represents the “othering” of the Latino population in the United States. In turn, this symbol has promoted and galvanized a subculture that supports discrimination, in the name of nationalism.

The very existence of a border wall culture establishes a dangerous precedent for Latino communities. Not only must members of this population worry about their own safety, but they must worry about their friends and family as well. It has put forth a hostile set of policies that has many living under the constant threat of deportation.

Latino Communities Put on ICE

The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, otherwise known as ICE, have hit record highs in arrests of undocumented immigrants under the Trump administration. Many of these persons are guilty of nothing more than staying in the country with an expired visa. Unfortunately, this has led to ICE harassing Latino communities in general. Even legal residents have been subject to arrest, and possible deportation.

It’s evident that Latinos in the US deal with a unique set of challenges stemming from border wall culture. In general, the US has a mental health dilemma. However, piling border wall culture on top of the other challenges faced by other Americans can make those symptoms that much worse. These ever present hostilities can catalyze an array of mental health symptoms—including fear, anxiety, and toxic stress.

For instance, according to research, young adult Latinas born in the US have higher suicide and depression rates compared to non-Latinas.

In the wake of the Trump Administration’s crack down on deportation, some Latino communities are living in a constant state of anxiety. Many law abiding citizens and residents, still feel the need to look over their shoulders every day. For instance, many Latino youths under Donald Trump’s presidency live in fear that their parents will get deported.

Mental Health Stigma in the Latino Community

Taking a closer look at this situation, Latinos generally lack mental health support. In the Latino community, discussing mental health tends to be frowned upon. So, when its members are suffering, they don’t speak up to ask for help. Also, of Latinos with symptoms of a psychological condition, only 20% speak to a doctor about the issue. While just 10% of these individuals get in touch with a mental health specialist.

On top of that, the US – in general – lacks in mental health professionals. Given the inequality faced by many Latinos across the country, it should then come as no surprise that the shortage of mental health resources is even worse for those communities. So, it’s incredibly challenging to find any help, provided they want it in the first place. It’s a uniquely prominent issue, also, because of potential language barriers that prevent Latinos from explaining and expressing their symptoms.

There is no doubting the severity of this situation. Of course, the US should be concerned about the entirety of its diverse population suffering from mental health problems. However, Latinos comprise the largest racial and ethnic minority group in the country at 16.7% of the population. That number is only expected to grow over the next few decades. Meaning, a progressively more significant chunk of the US population will suffer from these circumstances if the problem isn’t soon remedied.

Providing Mental Health Support to Latino Communities

There are definitely daunting hurdles placed in front of Latino communities across the nation. Fortunately, there are talented, caring individuals, as well as philanthropic organizations and governing bodies, trying to make a difference.

HCH Therapy and Counseling, for instance, conducts psychological evaluations in conjunction with removal defense procedures. We work with deportation lawyers and immigration attorneys to provide hardship immigration evaluations. We also provide Spanish speaking therapists for general mental health services, such as bilingual marriage counseling.

Those trying to make a difference have a full grasp of what these groups are up against. They understand the intricacies of the communities and do everything they can to make healthcare more accessible for Latinos across the US.

In Fresno, California, where the population is nearly 50% Latino, the Consejo Project trains social work students to serve Spanish-speaking children, teens, and youths. The project is operating as part of the Depart of Social Work Education at Fresno State. The purpose of the Consejo Project is to help the communities with their various systemic barriers that prevent their access to mental health and substance use services.

Their mission is centered around eliminating those mental health barriers affecting Latino communities. The project also aims to increase the number of bilingual and bicultural behavioral health professionals. This is one of many individual and collective efforts to improve the mental healthcare situation for Latinos across the US. It’s the people and organizations spearheading these initiatives who prove that – despite the current issues facing the Latino population – there are still reasons to believe that there’s a reason for hope.

Breaking Down the Walls on Mental Health

There is no easy fix to tackling the harmful policies stemming from border wall culture. There are reasonable concerns about the use of illegal channels to enter or stay in the country. However, these concerns are also being used to play on anxieties, promote fear, and stir up discrimination with anti-immigration rhetoric.

Our priority is assisting the Latino community in finding culturally competent mental healthcare. A precarious legal status. Social stigmas about seeking help. An inability to speak the same language. Insufficient insurance coverage. These all serve as potential barriers to seeking help. If left unchecked, Latinos will continue to be underserved. We encourage everyone to do what they can in spreading the right message about seeking help.

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