Abstract: Mental Health Access to Immigrant Latinx Emerging Adults (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

Mental Health Access to Immigrant Latinx Emerging Adults

Sunday, January 19, 2020
Treasury, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Carmen Valdez, PhD, Associate Professor, The University of Texas at Austin, TX
Ashley Ables, BA, Graduate Research Assistant and Graduate Student, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX
Kevin Wagner, BA, Research Assistant, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX
Alice Villatoro, PhD, Research Scientist, University of Texas at Austin, TX
Background and Purpose: Latinx youth without legal documentation transition to emerging adulthood with disrupted autonomy and security about their future. Undocumented youth, also known as unauthorized, move from a sheltered status in childhood to the blatant reality of illegality in adulthood that could significantly limit their activities and aspirations. They become at an increased risk for depression, anxiety, and substance use. This study aims to build a sustainable mental health (MH) model for Latinx emerging adults of immigrant families by expanding the Mexican Consulate General of Austin’s Ventanilla de Salud (VDS; Health Window) program, which connects individuals with medical needs to healthcare. Research questions:

Q1: What are the perceived MH needs and determinants of MH functioning and utilization of MH services of Latinx emerging adults?

Q2: What are the priorities of Latinx emerging adults for MH screening, referral, and services at the consulate?

Methods: Our study draws from mixed-methods studies of Latinx immigrants. The first study consisted of repeated interviews with adolescent youth of mixed-status families. Interviews explored youth’s perceptions of social determinants of wellbeing in their lives, including immigration policy. They discussed how immigration climate limits their lives and identities, and their psychological wellbeing. The second study consisted of surveys with Mexican immigrants visiting a health fair at the Mexican Consulate General of Austin. We assessed social determinants of mental health, perceived mental health burden, and patrons’ preferences for MH services in the community and at the consulate’s VDS. We will also present data from focus groups that are underway with 15 emerging adults 16-18 years of age, 15 adults aged 19-25 and 30 parents, covering topics about perceived MH needs and determinants of functioning and service utilization. We will use the logic model of pathways to MH needs and services for this population to provide participants with a starting point for discussion. Participants also complete a demographics questionnaire, MH screening and stress measures, and a brief report on their perceived needs for a variety of MH services at the time of the focus group.

Findings: Participants to date (a) reported significant stress in their lives, especially related to the immigration status of their families and social discourse on immigration, (b) identified a significant demand for mental health services in their community, both individual and family, (c) were unfamiliar with MH services in the community, (d) were open to receiving these services through the VDS, and (e) revealed transportation and immigration climate as barriers to receiving MH services. Youth felt burdened by immigration climate and racism against their parents and felt physiologically connected to U.S. and Mexican cultures. Trust in the VDS was a facilitator to accessing services. 

Conclusions and Implications: Ongoing data collection will inform the role of familial obligations, personal expectations and efficacy in the transition to emerging adulthood, as well as immigration policy (e.g., DACA) in the MH status of emerging adults. The knowledge gained provides the foundation for creating a sustainable MH model for the VDS tailored to Latinx emerging adults.