Immigration and Mental Health

By Tim Fromla

As more than 2500 children are separated from their parents, and as far as several thousands of miles, the toll brought upon the children can leave a lasting scar. Because of the zero-tolerance policy by the Trump Administration, folks seeking asylum.

The effects upon these children are mind-numbing as you hear a cacophony of fear and anger as the children are screaming for their mothers and fathers, while in custody. Click. Even the APA (American Psychological Association) is imploring the Trump Administration to return the kids to their parents, as long-lasting damage is done to those who cannot comprehend why they were separated.

Even children as young as one year old will experience PTSD. Imagine being a one-year-old in front of a judge during a federal hearing? As an adult, it can be never-wracking. Now imagine being a five-year-old alone in a court with no rights to an attorney?

There is a report of adoption after the parents are deported, according to the Intercept. Many times the family came here seeking asylum from violence, but because, Attorney General Jeff Session said that victims of gang violence or domestic violence are no longer qualifiers for those seeking shelter, the children will no longer see their birth parents and live with some stranger with whom they do not know.

It’s sad to see this happening. Many are saying that these people came here illegally, and the President said that the people are rapists and murderers, but the immigrants seeking refugee did not break the law and are doing everything legally. While those in D.C. are violating the Constitution, it is the children who are suffering.

According to DSM-5 diagnostic code 309.21, the definition of separation anxiety is:

Separation and anxiety disorder is a DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Ed.) diagnosis assigned to individuals who have an unusually strong fear or anxiety to separating from people they feel a strong attachment to. The diagnosis is given only when the distress associated with the separation is unusual for an individuals developmental level, is prolonged and severe. The need to stay in close proximity to caretakers can make it difficult for children with this disorder to go to school, stay at friends houses or be in a room by themselves. In adults it can make normal developmental activities like moving away from home, getting married or being an independent person very difficult.

Symptoms of Separation and Anxiety Disorder

  • Unusual distress at the discussion or experience of being parted from their attachment figure.

  • Excessive fears that harm will befall their attachment person.

  • Persistent worry of an unexpected event that could lead to separation from the attachment figure.

  • Refusal to leave the attachment figure.

  • Excessive fear of being alone.

  • Nightmares about separation.

  • Anxiety about sleeping and being separated from the attachment figure.

  • Physical complaints when separation is immanent.

There are also accusations of children given antidepressants to calm them down. It took me six months to get my prescription after six months of cognitive behavior therapy, and as an adult, I feel much better because of this. The anxiety these children are facing is separation, but to calm them down, they are forced to take meds without the possibility of therapy? Meds that were not designed or tested to be used for children?  The source of their problem is separation and prescribing powerful antidepressants would not be necessary if they were never separated.

Psychologists and psychiatrists warn that even if the children are back together with their parents, it would take years of therapy to treat these kids and who knows what will happen if they are released.

 

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