HOUSTON — DREAMers, or undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as small children, may struggle with mental health more than others, a new study finds.
Researchers at Rice University in Houston surveyed nearly 260 DREAMers, hoping to find the extent to which living in America without proper documentation impacted psychological well-being.
Respondents, who were Mexican by nationality, primarily resided in locales identified as “high-risk” (i.e., places in which there was strong political and legal pressure against immigrants).
The researchers found that 63 percent of younger DREAMers, aged 18 to 25, displayed psychological distress, the highest count among any age demographic. Furthermore, over 90 percent of respondents said that the loss of their property, family, social status, or symbolic self prompted their spiral into mental distress.
“DREAMers are often marginalized and discriminated against, and as a result they may become isolated from the larger educational and work communities,” says lead author Luz Garcini, a postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Psychology at the university, in a news release.
“Many also experience separation from deported family members, and they do not have the option of traveling internationally to visit them,” Garcini continues. “Finally, they live in constant fear of deportation and experience a sense of voicelessness, invisibility and limited opportunities, due to their conflicting undocumented status.”
Garcini et al. hope that interventions and advocacy efforts develop in response to this mental health crisis among DREAMers.
“As clinicians, we may contribute by devising solutions grounded in evidence and developing alternatives designed to facilitate access to culturally and contextually sensitive mental health services for these at-risk youths,” she suggests, “which is critical to protecting their mental health and their basic human rights.”
The study’s findings were published online last month in the American Journal of Psychiatry.