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Victimization and minority stress in first-gen Latinx immigrant adolescents

Getrich, Fish, Fryer, and Boekeloo team up to examine risk and protective factors for suicidality

A group of MPRC Faculty Associates, including Christina Getrich, Jessica Fish, Craig Fryer, and Bradley Boekeloo, recently published a journal article in Psychiatry Research investigating migration-related factors linked to suicide prevention in first-generation Latinx immigrant youth.

Over the past decade, there has been a 551% increase in the proportion of immigrant youth apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border, especially youth traveling from the Northern Triangle (Mexico, Honduras, and Guatemala). Highlighting that mental health challenges, such as suicidal ideation (SI), have become a pressing concern for this population, the authors aimed to elucidate the factors influencing SI, including family separation and victimization before, during, and after migration.

The participants, aged 14 to 21, were recruited through the researchers' partnership with La Clínica del Pueblo, a DC-Maryland-Virginia (DMV)-based community health clinic offering health services to Latinx immigrants.

First, the authors sought to characterize the participants patterns of minority stress and access to family, school, and peer support. Three latent profiles were discovered: strong resources (high support/low stress), average resources (moderate support/moderate stress), and weak resources (low support/moderate stress). Participants characterized as having moderate resources had the highest risk of experiencing SI compared to the other groups.

Second, the authors examined the role of migration-related victimization and family separation on SI. Here, they found that heightened risk of SI was positively linked to their length of residence in the US, in-transit migration victimization experiences, and post-migration victimization experiences. Moreover, non-heterosexual participants were more likely to report SI.

The researchers conclude that public health interventions and policy reform are urgently needed to address mental health challenges faced by Latinx immigrant youth. Enhancing support at the school- and family-level may be particularly impactful targets for lessening minority stress and buffering against SI. Immigrant families face significant challenges to accessing federal benefits and healthcare. Thus, expanding access to these services will be essential for safeguarding this population against the unique mental health challenges they face.

Salerno, J. P., Getrich, C. M., Fish, J. N., Castillo, Y., Edmiston, S., Sandoval, P., ... & Boekeloo, B. O. (2023). Profiles of Psychosocial Stressors and Buffers Among Latinx Immigrant Youth: Associations with Suicidal Ideation. Psychiatry Research, 115583.