02 Dec About immigration
Is immigration stress free?
Nowadays, people migrate for many reasons, including broadly political, socioeconomic and educational. Individuals who migrate experience multiple stresses that can impact their mental well-being. Some of the stresses include the loss of cultural norms, religious customs, social support systems, cultural conflicts in the workplace. Indeed, studies have shown that the rates of mental illness are increased in some migrant groups. Mental health practitioners need to be attuned to and should be informed about the unique stresses and cultural aspects that affect immigrants, in order to best address the needs of this increasing and vulnerable population.
Adjustment to a new culture is not always easy
The migration process can be in itself stressful, depending upon the type and cause of migration, and can affect the mental health of migrating individuals and their families. Adjustment to a new culture is not always easy! Changes in identity add to the appearance of negative feelings such as anxiety and sadness. Cultural bereavement occurs with increased frequency among migrants and their families as it involves the loss of the familiar, including language, attitudes, values, social structures and support networks. Grieving for this loss can be viewed as a healthy reaction and a natural consequence of migration; however, if the symptoms cause significant distress or impairment and last for a specified period of time, psychiatric intervention and professional support may be needed. The expression of such bereavement is influenced by many factors, among which are social, cultural and economic. However, some individuals, don’t express feelings of grief or don’t accept that they experience such negative feelings. Thus, cultural norms are essential in dealing with stressful situations like migration.
Immigrants experience psychosocial changes in their effort to be assimilated by the host culture. During the assimilation process, a person’s cultural identity may be lost and as a consequence it becomes a very stressful process which can possibly result in problems with self-esteem and mental health. Integration is most of the times one of the targets that immigrants have when they decide to live away from home and it seems to be strongly influenced by cultural congruity as well as by biological and psychosocial factors (e.g. having social network/support, career opportunities).
Migration is a complex process
In a nutshell, migration is a complex process, involving a heterogeneity of causes, experiences, stages, all of which influence the mental health of migrants. The difficulties (e.g. culture conflict, cultural confusion, isolation) experienced during the migration process itself, combined with a lack of social support, a discrepancy between achievement and expectations, economic hardships, racial discrimination and harassment, can lead to poor self-esteem, poor physical and mental health and an overall difficulty to adjust.