Mental Health for Immigrants: Taking Care of Yourself & Loved Ones


There is a tremendous amount of uncertainty in today’s immigration enforcement environment. Not knowing what you can expect for your future, or the futures of your family and friends, is stressful. Even as you may be experiencing anxiety, you can simultaneously be connecting to community or family members in ways that produce resiliency and joy. It is important to recognize that joy and love can coexist with stress and anxiety, and all of these feelings are valid. The information below provides tips for managing the emotional and spiritual well-being of yourself and others.

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Recognizing Depression and Anxiety

Have you noticed that you are feeling sad, or find it hard to stay hopeful about the future? Many in the immigrant community are feeling anxious about deportations and raids because of the current political climate and changes. This is a normal reaction to stressful policy developments and difficult personal situations. However, if these feelings persist for more than two weeks, and strengthen to the point where they affect your ability to go to work, school, or to have positive interactions with other people, you may be experiencing clinical depression.

Depression (major depressive disorder) is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. Fortunately, it is also treatable. It affects one in fifteen adults (6.7%) in a given year, so if you are experiencing any of these feelings you are not alone.

Symptoms can vary from mild to severe and can include:

  • Feeling sad or having a depressed mood
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
  • Changes in appetite — weight loss or gain unrelated to dieting
  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Loss of energy or increased fatigue
  • Increase in purposeless physical activity (e.g., hand-wringing or pacing) or slowed movements and speech (actions observable by others)
  • Feeling worthless or guilty
  • Difficulty thinking, concentrating or making decisions
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the above, make an appointment with a health practitioner. They can help evaluate your symptoms, and provide treatment.

Have you ever felt nervous? Maybe before going in for a job interview, or before speaking in public? These are normal situations in which to feel nervous, or “anxious.” However, these “normal feelings and experiences” are different from suffering from an anxiety-related disorder. In an anxiety-related disorder, the fear or worry does not go away and can get worse over time. It can influence someone’s life to the extent that it can interfere with daily activities like school, work and/or relationships.

If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the above, make an appointment with a health practitioner. They can help evaluate your symptoms, and provide treatment.

Caring for Loved Ones’ Emotional and Spiritual Well-being

Have you noticed that your friends or family members are feeling sad, or find it hard to stay hopeful about the future? Many in the immigrant community are feeling anxious about deportations and raids because of the current political climate and changes.

Find more resources and materials on depression & anxiety here.

If you think your child may be experiencing anxiety or depression, there are several steps you can take to help them. Depression is treatable, and a mental health professional can help diagnose and put together a plan for you and your child to complete together.

Find more resources and materials on talking to kids about depression and anxiety here.

Finding Emotional and Spiritual Support

If you are looking for support locally, enter your zip code into our service organizations lookup tool to find organizations that work with immigrants and provide healthcare and mental health services near you.

Many mixed status families may be questioning how safe it is for them to seek health services given increased immigration enforcement. You should know that there are strong privacy rules in place to protect patients, regardless of immigration status, at hospitals and health clinics.

Here are a few additional details to keep in mind:

  • The Affordable Care Act is still the law, and you should apply for health insurance if you or your children are eligible
  • Strong privacy rules protect families applying for health insurance, including families whose members have different immigration statuses
  • Do not provide your immigration status if you are not applying for insurance yourself
  • Everyone has a right to an interpreter when applying for health insurance or seeking health care, at no cost
  • If you are uninsured, you have certain health care options, regardless of your immigration status, including emergency room care, public health services like immunizations and HIV screening, and community health centers and free clinics.
  • Health care providers should not ask for immigration status information
  • Existing policy keeps immigration officials away from hospitals and medical facilities
  • You should not have to show a photo ID to receive medical treatment

For more detailed information on the rights of patients to privacy and services, please read NILC’s resource.

Though it may feel taboo to talk about your struggles or concerns with friends and family, sharing your worries with someone close to you who is supportive can actually ease some of your anxiety by making you feel less alone, and giving you space to say out loud what is worrying you, and how. A confidant can also help you connect with professionals who can provide additional support through conversations, breathing exercises, and treatment.

Joy Resources

  • Build a support network. Feelings of shame and guilt can often accompany depression or anxiety and make us feel isolated. Don’t be afraid to lean on the trusted people in your life–friends, family members, teachers, coworkers– when you are feeling low. Chances are you are not alone in your feelings, and asking and listening to one another without judgement can help you and your community feel more connected and heard.
  • Do an activity you enjoy. “Self-care” can be as small as doing a hobby that brings us happiness and makes us feel good about ourselves. If you need ideas, try going for a walk with a friend, journaling, or an activity you loved when you were younger. Choosing to spend your time doing an activity you enjoy when you are feeling stressed or down can give you a sense of control over your situation. You deserve access to love and joy.
  • Take a few deep breaths. Breathing slowly and deeply sends a message to our brain to calm down and ease tension in our body. Try the 4-7-8 breathing method. Breathe in slowly while counting to 4. Hold your breath and count to 7 in your head. Breathe all the air out of your lungs for a count of 8. Repeat 7-10 times.  

Resources for Survivors of Domestic Violence or Sexual Assault

If you or a loved one is a survivor of domestic violence or sexual assault, there are resources available for you. You may qualify for additional immigration relief options, or access to clinics. 

Service Provider Lookup

To find a health center, go to

To find a free or charitable clinic, go to


You are not alone. Free and confidential support is available to you. If you or someone you know is considering harming themselves or others, please call a suicide prevention hotline.

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