Levels of stress and mental health issues among immigrant communities are on the rise as a result of federal immigration policy. This is according to a new report from the Denver-based Center for Health Progress that shows just how much immigration policies have undermined the health of immigrant Coloradans.
The report shows that With deportations up 145% in Colorado and Wyoming, the climate of constant fear and stress among immigrant communities has led to health conditions such as depression, heart disease, diabetes and obesity in immigrant adults and children.
Also, Denver health care providers have seen a decline in clinic visits by immigrants and refugees, while Colorado public health departments and providers noticed an increase in immigrants withdrawing from or refusing to enroll in benefits for fear of ICE.
Dr. Yadira Caraveo, a pediatrician in Thornton who works primarily with the local Latino community, says she has seen a huge increase in stress levels in younger and younger patients, with children living with the fear of deportation, or living through the reality of having a parent deported.
“Mental health and physical health go together and sometimes they are very hard to tease apart as a pediatrician, because kids are not great at expressing. They don’t come in saying “I’m really anxious doctor.” They come in with stomach aches, with trouble in school, getting constantly sick, their immune system just seems to be down, they’re catching every single bug that’s coming through their school. And when you really delve down into what’s going on at home, you sometimes just feel the anxiety permeating off these kids. You’re sitting there talking to them in clinic and they either won’t make eye contact, or they’re really withdrawn, really nervous, and you delve into what’s been going on at home and it turns out there’s a lot of anxiety, a lot of fear, a lot of issues around money because somebody either is unable to get a job because they’re undocumented or they’ve been deported and there’s only one bread winner at home now. So really what we start to see is a lot of physical manifestations of this stress and then eventually it gets to a point where it’s diagnosable. And we have seen a spike in issues around depression and anxiety, things that are diagnosable as a mental health illness and kids who are ending up needing therapy services, if they’re able to access those services or if their parents are willing to access them, and then a lot of times, medication.”