The children of immigrants may never pass a physical border, but they still face serious barriers to accessing mental health resources in the United States. There’s the challenge of financing therapy or psychiatry and any associated medications—especially given the number of immigrants who are uninsured, which is roughly 23 percent of lawfully present immigrants and 45 percent of undocumented immigrants (excluding elderly populations), according to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation analysis. There are language barriers. And there are race barriers—with fewer people of color using psychological resources and fewer people of color working in psychology.
But the strictly cultural barriers are just as pervasive, though they’re harder to quantify. In reporting this story, second-generation immigrants have shared with me, myself a second-generation immigrant, the sense that “therapy just didn’t exist” to their parents, or was “deeply stigmatized.” (The people interviewed asked to remain anonymous to protect personal details and medical history, and also to protect the identity of their family members.)
It’s an experience that’s often overlooked in broader conversations about immigrant mental health, despite more than 18 million people under age 18 living with at least one immigrant parent as of 2017, according to the Migration Policy Institute—a figure that represented 26 percent of the 70 million kids in the U.S. at that time. While there’s no way to catalog the specific stressors that affect such a wide swath of cultures and countries—and it would be disrespectful to consider the category of “immigrant” itself as a monolith—there are fairly universal cultural barriers. Having U.S. citizenship doesn’t render children immune to immigration-related stressors. They must learn to be flexible, able to withstand constantly straddling the culture their parents came from and the culture they’re currently growing up in.
Read more at Vice.com.