By Jennifer Patiño
CHICAGO — Latinos, regardless of immigration status, encounter various barriers to seeking mental health treatment.
These barriers impacting Latinos as a group include affordability, transportation, lack of resources in their community and scarcity of Spanish speaking professionals. A survey shows that in 1999 there were only 29 Latino mental health professionals for every 100,000 Latinos in the U.S., according to the Surgeon General. More recent figures were not available.
Within the disparities faced by the Latino community, undocumented women are especially vulnerable to factors that may lead to mental illness in the first place.
“The clients I have worked with who have been undocumented many times present with anxiety, with depression and many times it’s related to the social stressors around them,” said Dr. Nayeli Chavez, of the Chicago School of Professional Psychology, home of the Center for Latino Mental Health.
“The experience of being undocumented presents a lot of challenges for women in particular who come from their countries of origin by themselves and don’t have a support network in the United States,” Dr. Chavez added.
Being undocumented may also make a woman more susceptible to domestic abuse because their status can become a way in which an abusive partner may threaten them, Dr. Chavez said. Undocumented women also are more likely to suffer all kinds of abuse in the workplace, threats about being deported and being unpaid.
“Sometimes they are discriminated against, they are harassed,” Dr. Chavez said. “All of those things contribute to feelings of isolation, all kind of stressors that are many times linked to mental health difficulties.”
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