Mental Health Care for Immigrant Youth


By: Kristine Alarcon

 On April 21st, the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA)’s Dream Resource Center (DRC) released a study called “Pol(ICE) in My Head.” The study focused on the mental health of undocumented and uninsured youths revealing that there is limited access to health care for undocumented youths especially when it comes to mental health services.

Many immigrant youths are not utilizing resources such as social services and health care to better their well being because of their fear of deportation. They may feel stressed and even refuse to get treatment when they are ill. When seeing a physician, it is possible that they may have to disclose that they are undocumented.
Culture may also be an explanation as to why young immigrants are not seeking treatment. According to Trina Lei Pasumbal, a researcher and member of ASPIRE (Asian Students Promoting Immigrant Rights through Education). The pressure that comes with the Asian Pacific Islander (API) label as a “model minority” and being undocumented may take a toll on the youths’ mental health. They, especially API immigrants, may not reveal their feelings and problems, as mental illness is a stigma in their culture.
Language differences are another reason undocumented and uninsured youth are reluctant to seek mental health help. Communication between the immigrants and the health care providers can be difficult when they do not speak the same language. Other times, it can be hard to communicate, as there are no direct translations for some symptoms. For example, “the water in my heart has fallen” is a closer translation to “depression” in the Cambodian Khmer language because there is no direct translation for the word.
For Alberto Velazquez, who is a participant in Circle Project managed by DRC, the project helped to relieve his stress level as he was growing up as an undocumented immigrant and a working student. He agrees with the Health for All bill, a legislation sponsored by Sen. Ricardo Lara that would provide health care for everyone in the state of California even if a patient has immigrant or undocumented status. However, the bill is still in the process of becoming law in the state legislature.
Sundaram, Viji. “Undocumented Immigrant Youth on Constant “High Alert” – Study.” New America Media.—-study.php
Kristine Alarcon is a senior at the University of San Francisco working towards a Bachelors of Science in Biology. She is a Social Media Assistant at Cancer InCytesMagazine.

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Mental Health Care for Immigrant Youth was originally published @ Cancer inCYTES Blog and has been syndicated with permission.

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