In the Journals

Special Issue: Immigration and Mental Health

Medical Anthropology has just released a special issue, edited by Thurka Sangaramoorthy and Megan A. Carney, which offers insights into “the landscape of immigrant mental health and how the experience of multiple exclusions influences collective psychosocial well-being.”

Immigration, Mental Health and Psychosocial Well-being (open access)
Thurka Sangaramoorthy & Megan A. Carney

Anthropological approaches to “immigrant mental health” as an object of ethnographic inquiry can illuminate how psychosocial well-being – or decline – and the therapeutic realm of mental health is always enacted by a variety of institutions and social actors. The ways that mental health is understood and approached across different geographical and social settings are constitutive of a range of cultural meanings, norms, and social relations. The authors in this special section provide crucial insights into the landscape of immigrant mental health and how the experience of multiple exclusions influences collective psychosocial well-being. They also illustrate the extent to which narratives shape the production of knowledge around immigration and health, engendering direct effects on public policy, social imaginaries, and community health. Future research in the anthropology of immigration and mental health will need to further elucidate the structural underpinnings and racial capitalist origins of psychosocial decline.

Ambiguous Loss and Embodied Grief Related to Mexican Migrant Disappearances
Rebecca M. Crocker, Robin C. Reineke & María Elena Ramos Tovar

Since the 1990s, thousands of Latin Americans have died or disappeared along the US-Mexico border, following the funneling of migration through remote desert regions. The families of missing migrants face long-term “ambiguous loss,” a lived experience in which a loved one is physically absent but psychologically present. Mexican relatives of the missing in Arizona and Sonora report that these losses produce deep emotional suffering along a timeline – worrying about the crossing, learning of the disappearance, beginning to search, and finally, coping with the long-term impacts of unknowing. Close relatives experience embodied health effects including headaches, insomnia, anxiety, depression, and chronic disease.

Ragazzi. Migrants and Staff in the Italian Asylum System
Cristina Zavaroni, Alessandro Pacco & Stefania Consigliere

Since the start of the Mediterranean refugee crisis in 2015, large numbers of migrants have been forced into the Italian accoglienza (reception) system, a muddled and ambiguous context describable as a camp. Based on our consultancy practice, we analyze the wide labeling of migrants – no matter their age, migratory journey, or family status – as ragazzi (boys/girls or kids), and what it reveals about the current Italian social imaginary: the effects of neoliberal emotional policies, the continuation of a colonialist mentality, the need for psychological defenses among staff, and the disempowerment of migrants in a camp-like institution.

Faith in the Future: Posttraumatic Growth Through Evangelical Christianity for Immigrant Survivors of Intimate Partner Violence
Allison Bloom

For immigrants from Latin America experiencing Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) in the United States, complex systems, exclusionary policies, and xenophobia create additional layers of suffering. However, based on ethnographic research among immigrant survivors, I show how the combination of secular IPV services with evangelical Christian practices can lead to positive personal growth in the wake of such hardship – a form of personal development that Richard Tedeschi and colleagues refer to as “posttraumatic growth.” By demonstrating these concrete effects of religion on survivor experiences, I highlight the importance of IPV services that are attentive to the potentialities of faith.

Familial Vulnerability: Legal Status and Mental Health within Mixed-Status Families
Ryan I. Logan, Milena A. Melo & Heide Castañeda

Mental and emotional well-being are intimately entangled with immigration status, personal relationships, and the broader political environment. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in South Texas including interviews with mixed-status families, this article illustrates the spillover impacts affecting mental and emotional health of family members with different legal statuses. Building on the notion of “structural vulnerability,„ we propose the concept of familial vulnerability, a lens which highlights how racialization, legal status, and discrimination affect the family unit. Our analysis of the mental health impacts on family members within mixed-status families may inform necessary changes to programs and policies to improve the needs of this population.


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