Literature ReviewTheoretical and Historical Perspectives
The Mexican immigrant demographic is one of the largest and fastest growing in the United States. A large number of these individuals are undocumented, which means that they face a two-fold problem – they face discrimination that accompanies being an immigrant, and they have little or no access to healthcare. Research suggests that the mental health of undocumented Mexican immigrants suffers from a few known factors – failure to succeed due to discrimination, limited resources and restricted mobility, blame, stigmatization, guilt and shame, vulnerability, and fear (Sullivan & Rehm, 2005). Traumatic stress disorders come from memories of traumatic and dangerous border crossings, whilst stress, depression and other mental health problems are associated with discrimination. The question here is how human services can be used to tackle these problems in the undocumented immigrant.
Discrimination is perhaps one of the biggest factors that affects the mental health of immigrants. Studies have shown that getting the work-life balance, spending time with family and feeling gainfully employed are one of the biggest indicators of mental well-being (Strazdins et al., 2006). Discrimination, on the other hand, often prevents Mexican immigrants from achieving this, particularly undocumented ones. It can be extremely difficult for an undocumented immigrant to find gainful employment, for example, and discrimination occurs in the workplace even if employment is found. This takes a toll on the mental health of the individual, and increases stress levels, which in turn can be exacerbated by not having access to the services needed to improve the situation (Farley et al., 2005).
Cristancho et al. (2008) investigated how human services can be improved to provide for the needs of Mexican immigrants. This research conducted 19 focus groups with 181 participants from three different communities to investigate their access to healthcare and the variety of different issues that affects this group. It was found that the barriers to accessing mental health care included the high costs of health care services, communication issues between patients and providers, legal status and discrimination, and a lack of health insurance coverage (Cristancho et al., 2008). As such, this suggests that human services can work with Mexican immigrants to improve access. It is suggested, for example, that providing Spanish-speaking staff members improves communication between patient and provider, which in turn reduces the amount of discrimination felt by the patient and increases their feelings of comfort in approaching the service (Cristancho et al., 2008).
There is also some research into the mental health needs of the undocumented Mexican immigrant population. Shatell et al. (2009) found that there are a number of health beliefs held by this population about mental healthcare which prevent them from accessing services. This is perhaps compounded by discrimination, in that if an individual is told that they are somehow lesser, they do not want to engage in mental health practice as it confirms their perceived place in society. Additionally, it must be noted that different kinds of mental health problems affected the undocumented Mexican immigrant group in the United States. PTSD from crossing borders or racially aggravated attacks, for example, needs to be treated differently to PTSD for other reasons (Shatell et al., 2009). It also needs to be noted that the stressful experience of being discriminated against for having an immigrant status may exacerbate pre-existing problems, and again this needs to be taken into account in treatment options.
Gaps in the Literature
One of the main gaps in the literature is that there is relatively little information on how human services can be used to help reduce the effects of discrimination. As identified above, discrimination is one of the biggest causes of mental health problems in undocumented immigrants, but without investigations into how this can be reduced there is unlikely to be any progress into improving conditions for these people. Current research also tends to focus on undocumented Mexican immigrants as a group, whereas more information needs to be known about specific types of individual that are affected. This means that there is a definite gap for more research into the effects it has on parents, who are important in several ways. Firstly, the mental health of the parent can have effects on the mental health of other family members (Huang et al., 2005), and secondly the effects of stress and finding time to spend with family are one of the biggest causes of mental health issues.
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this study is to investigate how human services can be used to reduce the effects of discrimination on Mexican immigrant parents, particularly undocumented ones. This will help to highlight the effects of discrimination on this group in general, and it is hoped that this will pave the way to a better mental health for this group. It is also aimed at understanding why there is discrimination towards this group and using this information to better equip human services for dealing with its effects on the target population. This project aims to improve the lives of undocumented Mexican immigrant parents, their families, and understand how discrimination can play a huge role in the mental health of an individual.
- Cristancho, Sergio et al. “Listening to Rural Hispanic Immigrants in the Midwest: A Community-Based Participatory Assessment of Major Barriers to Health Care Access and Use.” Qualitative health research 18.5 (2008): 633–646. Print.
- Farley, Tillman et al. “Stress, Coping, and Health: A Comparison of Mexican Immigrants, Mexican-Americans, and Non-Hispanic Whites.” Journal of immigrant health 7.3 (2005): 213–220. Print.
- Huang, Larke et al. “Transforming Mental Health Care for Children and Their Families.” American Psychologist 60.6 (2005): 615. Print.
- “Mental Health of Undocumented Mexican Immigrants: A Review O… : Advances in Nursing Science.” LWW. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Nov. 2015.
- Shattell, Mona M. et al. “Mental Health Service Needs of a Latino Population: A Community-Based Participatory Research Project.” Issues in mental health nursing 29.4 (2008): 351–370. Print.
- Strazdins, Lyndall et al. “Unsociable Work? Nonstandard Work Schedules, Family Relationships, and Children’s Well-Being.” Journal of Marriage and Family 68.2 (2006): 394–410. Print.