People move to a new country for all kinds of reasons. Some move because of job opportunities that will provide them a better financial future. Others immigrate because they are fleeing volatile situations in their home country. While others will make a big move just to experience something different.
Regardless of the reasons for moving, it could be a huge change for anyone who immigrates. Even if a move is supposed to be for a “better life” for someone, it doesn’t make it easy. Not only are they uprooting their whole lives, including their family sometimes, but they are moving to a country they are likely not familiar with, maybe having to learn a language they know nothing about, and oftentimes leaving loved ones behind.
Here are some reasons an immigrant may be likely to experience certain mental health concerns, and what they may go through.
Adjusting to a completely new culture can be overwhelming, to say the least. Typically, someone who moves to a new country will experience some anxiety as they are trying to adjust to a whole new life. Learning how to assimilate into a new country or society, especially one that might see them as an “outsider” depending on the country, can come with its own set of challenges. It’s hard enough to assimilate to a new culture, and it’s another level to feel rejected or like you don’t “belong” or “fit”, which could lead to its own mental health challenges.
Relocating or immigrating can also lead one to feel depression and/or a grief response, as they mourn the loss of being so far away from their former home and the life that could’ve otherwise been. During a period of culture shock, it’s also completely normal for one to question their decisions about the move and whether or not it was the right choice for them and their family.
Uncertainty About Immigration Status
Moving to a new country in and of itself can be hard enough. When you then factor in the need for people to have permanent residency in a new country, it could lead one to experience a whole set of challenges. These could include bureaucracy-related issues, stressors related to the “unknowns” and “what-ifs”, and even possible mental health-related issues, such as anxiety, depression, stress, feelings of overwhelm, etc.
In regards to obtaining permanent residency in the United States, there could exist quite a bit of stigma related to this, especially depending on where in the United States someone may be immigrating to. This stigma could lead someone to feel even more stressed and sometimes even traumatized in an already challenging situation. Not feeling welcomed by a society that you thought you would feel safe in, especially if you’re having to flee your home country for life-and-death for instance, can leave many people in a state of limbo. This, too, could lead one to feel anxious, depressed, overwhelmed, and just exhausted on many levels.
Being Apart From Family
Even when someone moves to a new country to provide a better life for their family, being separated from loved ones can be heart-wrenching. This can be intensified when that person doesn’t know when or even if they might be reunited with loved ones again.
Oftentimes, family is an integral part of who we are and what is important to us. When you are separated for long periods of time, it’s completely normal to feel things like overwhelming sadness, guilt, anxiety, and even regret.
Why Do Immigrants Experience Mental Health Issues?
We talked about how being an immigrant can cause feelings of depression, anxiety, and/or grief, among others. In addition to the reasons above, it can be a huge shock to the nervous system to make a big change. It can be a lot to take in all at once, and so rapidly too, leading one’s “nervous” part of their nervous system to work in overdrive as it tries to process and cope with everything.
Why Is Mental Health So Important For An Immigrant?
Firstly, mental health, in and of itself, is crucial. We all have mental health, the same way we all have physical health. Taking care of yourself and your mental well-being is not easy when you feel like you are doing it alone. This can be especially true when you are in a foreign country and already struggling with adjusting to this new life while juggling all that comes with it.
Secondly, depending on your immigration case, having an evaluation completed by a therapist could help you with obtaining residency or citizenship in the United States. These evaluations could be the most significant and crucial part of your case, especially since they are completed with both subjective and objective data to present your story and any related findings in an unbiased way.
As a psychologist, I specialize in Immigration Evaluations. I also understand the unique difficulties that someone is facing during this new chapter of their life. Let’s connect soon so we can set up a consultation.