Sunday, November 4, 2007

Post-Disaster Children and Immigrants: Do They Face Similar Treatment in Mental Health World?

This week as I explored the blogosphere, I discovered two posts that led me to believe that children and immigrants face the same abandonment and lack of mental health treatment following a disaster such as a devastating wildfire or a destructive hurricane. In a recent post, William Meek, a doctoral candidate in counseling psychology, from the World of Psychology blog, explored how mental health services for children in the post-Katrina region are not meeting standards. Apparently children who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety are able to continue living their lives; however they are not receiving much help to ease the stress and anxiety issues that still linger from the disaster. In another post written by Seth Wessler, at the RaceWire, the Colorlines Blog, he mentions how a report by the New York Times shows incidents of undocumented immigrants being turned away from or arrested at evacuation shelters and detained by the Border Patrol as they tried to get back to their homes in parts of California following the wildfires. My comments to both of these blogs can be found by following the post links above and can also be seen below.

Comment to William Meek’s “Post-Katrina Mental Health Services”:
I think the study exploring the wane of mental health services in Katrina kids is a wake up call to the mental health care community. Just because media coverage of victims has subsided does not mean that mental health services available to the victims can subside as well. I think you make a good point in your post by saying that “it is troubling to think that a generation of children will have lingering psychological problems due to the disaster.” But the lingering problems are not entirely inevitable. With proper mental health services, the children will be able to overcome their traumatic experiences. That is why it is important to keep funding mental health services in the affected regions. This led me to wonder whether FEMA is still awarding grants to fund mental health care treatment. Most likely it is not, especially not as much as it did in August 2006 with its $34 million dollar contribution. With continued funding, programs can be created to train new psychologist to assist those in who are feeling burnt out. These psychologists should also be trained in multicultural psychology in order to appropriately deal with the barriers to treatment, such as the social stigma of mental illness, cultural mistrust, and availability issues.

Comment to Seth Wessler’s “Immigrants and the Fires”:
I do not think it is fair how immigrants are being turned away from evacuation shelters and being deported, yet they are expected to assist with the reconstruction efforts after the California wildfires. If they are being refused the basic support services, such as evacuation shelters, what guarantees that they are going to receive the mental health care needed to deal with post-disaster trauma? The fires can definitely be seen as a wide spread disaster that has affected many and those affected may be at high-risk for experiencing stress and trauma. Some people are able to recover from the trauma, however others have more difficulty. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, these people who have trouble recovering from the trauma are people who are faced with ongoing stress or who lack social support. Immigrants fit this description perfectly. Most of these illegal immigrants already face the stress of being deported as well as acculturation stress, however, now they face the stress of losing their jobs and being arrested due to the fires that have forced them to seek help from authorities. I like how you bring up the fact in your post that the Mexican Consulate and other service organizations “have stepped up to provide support, aiding in search efforts for workers in hard to access areas and supplying financial assistance.” This is really important because it will help ease some of the stress that immigrants face as they recover from the fire disasters. However, mental health care services should definitely be provided to these immigrants especially if they are going to be expected to aid in the reconstruction. We owe them that at least.
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