Immigrants Living In Fear Are Developing PTSD

There’s a lot of fear growing among the Latino community, both immigrant and non-immigrant, mainly due to the stereotypes we see on mainstream media. Sylvia Marotta-Walters is a professor of counseling at George Washington University Graduate School of Education and Human Development and she’s been a trauma researcher for over 25 years.

As a trauma researcher, she’s researched situations that can cause post-traumatic stress symptoms and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), such as the ones that Latino immigrants are currently experiencing. All over the country immigrants are living in fear of being deported and this fear is causing symptoms of PTSD.

sylvia marotta-walters
Sylvia Marotta-Walters, Professor of Counseling at George Washington University Graduate School of Education and Human Development. Photo credit: Gareth Strope.

Many of the things people hear and read on the news and social media have spread fear, which is why it’s important to dispel stereotypes that are getting into people’s heads. “We’re human beings and naturally wired to stereotypes and it isn’t the stereotyping itself that is the problem, the problem arises when we believe that the stereotypes that are in our head help us categorize information as real,” says Marotta-Walters. When we act as if these stereotypes are real, that’s when we get into trouble. We are all a nation of immigrants and to assume that because a person is of a particular ethnic group that that person must be illegal, it’s one of the most difficult stereotypes, she says.

Three Popular Myths That Are Simply Not True

1. Latinos Don’t Adapt to the American Culture

Latino immigrants have been in the U.S. for over three generations and just like other immigrant groups, they share the culture and adapt. “People think that Latinos are mono-linguistic and if you’re looking to categorize an entire group of people, you are creating a false reality,” she says. The fact is, that the majority of Latinos living in the United States are citizens and speak English. “When people talk about not assimilating, they say that Latinos are not going to learn the language and that’s simply not true,” says Marotta-Walters. Being bilingual is often addressed as a liability, rather than a resource and being bilingual has many valuable health benefits.


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