Abstract: (see Poster Gallery) Social Isolation and Loneliness Among Migrant Youth and Emerging Adults: A Community-Based Providers' Perspectives on Enhancing Access to Mental Health Services (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

All in-person and virtual presentations are in Mountain Standard Time Zone (MST).

SSWR 2023 Poster Gallery: as a registered in-person and virtual attendee, you have access to the virtual Poster Gallery which includes only the posters that elected to present virtually. The rest of the posters are presented in-person in the Poster/Exhibit Hall located in Phoenix A/B, 3rd floor. The access to the Poster Gallery will be available via the virtual conference platform the week of January 9. You will receive an email with instructions how to access the virtual conference platform.

597P (see Poster Gallery) Social Isolation and Loneliness Among Migrant Youth and Emerging Adults: A Community-Based Providers' Perspectives on Enhancing Access to Mental Health Services

Sunday, January 15, 2023
Phoenix C, 3rd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Melissa Bessaha, PhD, LMSW, MA, Assistant Professor, State University of New York at Stony Brook, NY
Ushana Persaud, BSW, MSW Student, Florida Gulf Coast University
Ruki Asfe, MSW, MSW Student, State University of New York at Stony Brook
Miguel Munoz-Laboy, DrPhil, MPH, Associate Professor, State University of New York at Stony Brook
Background and Purpose: In 2018, a large national survey conducted by CIGNA on the state of loneliness in the United States classified emerging adults (e.g., Generation Z, Millennials) as the loneliest generation. Chronic loneliness, or the persistence of loneliness over time, is a major public health issue for emerging adults. The adverse effects of loneliness may lead to significant physical, social, and emotional problems that can last through adulthood. Migrant youth and emerging adults (MYEA) who recently migrated to the United States are especially vulnerable to experiencing chronic loneliness due to experiences of social isolation, discrimination, and stigma. However, there is a lack of intervention research on detecting, mitigating, and addressing the effects of chronic loneliness for this underserved population. The goal of this study was to learn more about the experiences of community-based providers in approaching loneliness and social isolation among MYEA.

Methods: Seven focus groups involving 20 community-based providers serving MYEA in the New York metropolitan area were conducted from July through September 2021. Participant eligibility criteria and recruitment included: (1) represent community agencies serving migrant youth populations; (2) work in the agency/organization for at least 6 months; and (3) be able and willing to consent. Participants were recruited via email, university social media posts, and snowball sampling methods. Providers represented social service organizations, schools, and community health and mental health services. Focus groups were approximately an hour long and recorded using Zoom technology. The focus group guide consisted of three main sections: identify community barriers to young people’s mental health; lived experiences in supporting migrant youth in their communities; and community assets to address specific issues of loneliness among migrant youth. Data analysis involved double-coding by pairs of trained research team members to generate initial thematic codes matrix. Upon completing the initial analysis, emerging content-driven themes and subthemes were reviewed, codes were reconciled and refined, and categories were developed independently.

Results: Across all focus groups, the theme of the importance of socio-emotional wellbeing of MYEA was discussed. There was consensus that the experience of migration itself to the United States facilitated social isolation and loneliness for migrant youth. Additionally, tensions between professional mandates and protections for migrant youth clients and barriers to supportive services including mental health and health services were described as roadblocks to supporting migrant youth’s needs. Providers identified three major themes related to community barriers that migrant youth and their families confront to engage in available services involving access, quality, and retention of services.

Conclusions and Implications: Young people’s exposure to adverse experiences such as anti-immigrant sentiments, poverty, and a global pandemic can all erode social support as well as exacerbate experiences of loneliness and social isolation. Future intervention strategies should focus on implementing and building upon community assets to support migrant youth and emerging adults through the transition to adulthood.