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Monday, January 9, 2017

MIGRATION, OPPRESSION, AND MENTAL HEALTH



Post by Lovette Kargbo Thompson, BAJI Atlanta Organizer

There’s no doubt that migration is changing the face of the future. Still, we must recognize that previous spurts of migration have helped shape the present makeup of populations in many major cities. The roots of the people in a region tie them to the migrations of their ancestors and help explain the history of the region. Over the years, the growing concentration of migrants to these cities has expanded the growth of communities, government and employment. Migration has also contributed to the affluence in diversity of cultures, races, food and ethnicities.
But as the number of African Americans and black immigrants influence communities, many are still forced to adhere to a subservient role in society – they still have to confront the realities of being black. Many experience being racially discriminated against within the workplace and in their communities. Individuals who migrate also tend to experience multiple stresses that can impact their mental well being, including the loss of cultural norms, social support systems, religious customs and adjustments to a new culture which affects identity and the concept of self.There’s no doubt that migration is changing the face of the future. Still, we must recognize that previous spurts of migration have helped shape the present makeup of populations in many major cities. The roots of the people in a region tie them to the migrations of their ancestors and help explain the history of the region. Over the years, the growing concentration of migrants to these cities has expanded the growth of communities, government and employment. Migration has also contributed to the affluence in diversity of cultures, races, food and ethnicities.
The reality is that people who have moved to a new country or have simply moved to a new town, move for a variety of reasons; often because of positive aspects of the new place or negative aspects of the old. Both come with an emotional toll.  For example, as the U.S. and other countries grapple with the influx of Haitians and Africans migrating due to the recent devastation caused by Hurricane Matthew and those fleeing terrorist groups, the rates of mental illness and disempowerment are increasing amongst them. Thousands of migrants are still journeying their way through Latin America, with the hope of making it to the U.S.  They face many layers of oppression, including hunger, political violence, enduring exploitation for employment, or in the worst cases rape or death. 
While immigrant rights advocates and service providers often scramble to meet the immediate physical needs of newly arrived migrants, and collect heart-wrenching stories for the purpose of pushing a pro-immigrant narrative, the emotional needs of migrants often go unmet.  Mental health issues including major depression disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and anxiety disorder are common among newly arrived immigrants and refugees. Our movement must develop the capacity to address both the physical and mental health challenges facing recent migrants. Mental health practitioners and immigration advocates alike should be attuned to the unique stresses and cultural aspects that affect immigrants and refugees in order to best address the needs of this increasing and vulnerable population.  
While there’s no doubt that immigrants and refugees are resilient, traumatic experiences and migration stressors have a great impact on their mental well-being. Let’s not forget this as we gear up to fight xenophobia, racism, and anti-Black and anti-immigrant policies over the next four years.

2 comments:

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