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Deportation Fears Putting Mental Strain on Hispanic Families

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THURSDAY, March 1, 2018 (HealthDay News) -- Recent U.S. immigration policy changes are causing significant mental distress for many Hispanic parents in the country, a new study finds.

A "substantial proportion" of Hispanic parents surveyed reported that "they are avoiding authorities, warning their children to change their routines and worrying about the future due to recent U.S. immigration policies and news," said study lead author Kathleen Roche.

Nearly all of the teens whose parents were surveyed were either U.S. citizens or protected under Deferred Action Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

The U.S. Supreme Court's refusal on Monday to hear an appeal of a recent DACA ruling gave DACA recipients a temporary reprieve, but the program's fate is still unclear. President Donald Trump still wants to end the program that protects these "dreamers."

The uncertainty and fear immigrant families are living with can take a toll on mental health, said Roche. She is an associate professor of prevention and community health at George Washington University School of Public Health in Washington, D.C.

Parents experiencing these kinds of immigration-related concerns "appear to be at a very high risk of anxiety, depression, and other forms of distress," Roche said.

The researchers surveyed more than 200 Hispanic parents of teen children in a suburb of a large East Coast city. More than two-thirds of the parents were either citizens, permanent residents, or under temporary protected status.

Many said recent immigration actions and news have had emotional and behavioral effects. For example, nearly two-thirds said they very often or always worried about family members getting separated.

Nearly 40 percent said they often avoided getting medical care, help from police, or support from social services because of immigration actions and news.

And half said they very often or always warn their teens to stay away from authorities and to change their behaviors, such as where they hang out.

Parents who reported significant worry or changes in behavior due to immigration concerns had at least a 300 percent increase in the risk of serious mental distress, including symptoms of anxiety and depression, according to the study.

"Such high levels of distress among parents raise concerns about immigration impacts on the entire family, including among teenagers," Roche said.

"Studies show that adolescents whose parents are anxious or depressed are at elevated risk of doing poorly in school, adopting risky behaviors, and developing lifelong health and mental health problems," she said.

The study results were published March 1 in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on Hispanic health.

SOURCE: George Washington University, news release, March 1, 2018


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