The current immigration policies could be putting the mental health of adolescents at dangerous risk. A study published in Jama Pediatrics found that changes in immigration policies that are tied to deportation or detention have led to increased risky behavior, such as suicidal thoughts, alcohol use, school failure, and chronic mental health problems among young Latino and Latinas. The research also pointed out that most of these adolescents are American citizens.
For the survey, the researchers interviewed randomly selected 547 Latino/Latina adolescents from suburban Atlanta, Georgia, school district. The participants were chosen from middle schools. The first survey was between February and April of 2018. A follow-up was conducted in January 2019. The data were analyzed to check if deportation or detention of a family member in the previous 12 months was linked to alcohol use, suicidal ideation, and clinical externalizing symptoms. The survey also factored in initial mental health and risk behavior.
Of the 547 adolescents surveyed, 136 had seen a family member being detained or deported in the previous year. 38 of them expressed suicidal ideation, 25 showed alcohol use, and 31 displayed externalizing behavior. This was significantly higher than the figures among the rest of the 411 youths.