Depression in undocumented immigrants

Feeling desperate as an undocumented person in the country, last year Maria Hernandez tried to end her life by slashing her wrists. The 22-year-old survived her attempted suicide, but she has not overcome her depression. 


“My emotional issues began when I felt that I couldn’t talk to anyone about my immigration status. I had to keep that part of my life a secret. I also didn’t think I would end up in college or that I would be able to work since most jobs asked for a social security number,”/ said Hernandez. 


Antonia Correa, who has worked on mental illnesses at many local institutions, stated: “It’s horrible to live in uncertainty thinking that your life could change forever from being deported.”


Many young people are living through the reality of being undocumented immigrants, suffering from depression which makes things even more complicated for them as they feel as if their world crumbles around them, taking desperate measures like Maria Hernandez. 


According to the expert on the topic at hand: “Depression makes it impossible for people to see things clearly and for them to realize there are alternatives for what they’re going through.”


José Juarez is one more of the many undocumented immigrants in the country who suffer from emotional and psychological issues because of their immigration status. 


Juarez came here from Mexico with his parents when he was only 12 years of age. He explains that from the moment he arrived in the country he realized he was an undocumented immigrant, but he “didn’t talk about it with anyone else, not with teachers or friends,” for fear of being deported. 


However, the biggest issue hit when, as an undocumented immigrant, he started to apply for scholarships for college after finishing high school. 


“I asked my dad about my social security number, but he explained to me that I didn’t have one, and I then realized how this would impact not only my chances of going to college but also of finding a job,” he said. 


Juarez is currently under the protection of the DACA program, but he explained he’s still stressed and in fear for his parents, who have no permit to reside in the country. 


Fear is one of the negative factors that affect the lives of young undocumented immigrants who continuously feel in danger of unexpectedly losing their parents and relatives. This is considered a political and social attack on the community with dangerous consequences, explained Correa. 


“Alcoholism, drug addictions, and suicide are some of the things that young people take to when they find themselves in a country to which they never asked to come. Even though their parents made the decision to come to the United States in search of a better future, their kids only understand that they’re far away from their friends and their roots, having to face the reality of not being able to continue their studies or get the job they wanted, as if their future was cut short,” said Correa. 


According to Antonia, our community is lacking quality mental health services for minorities, and this is an old issue that does not seem to be ending soon. “However, we must work hard to face the situation and to fight so that the younger members of our communities can understand that no matter how extreme of a situation they might find themselves in, there are always viable alternatives.”


Maria is currently working to pay for her studies at the Metropolitan Community College and has completely removed the idea of suicide. Jose has recently been accepted to work at a systems company and plans to enroll at UNO.


While it’s true that someone’s legal status in the country can significantly affect the mental health of undocumented people, more support programs need to be implemented on said issues to provide some encouragement and hope for young Latinos who represent the future of society.


NAMI-Nebraska 402.559.5100

Free hotline for help in cases of depression or attempted suicide

1-888-628-9454 (Help in Spanish available 24/7)

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