In February of 2020, the group Physicians for Human Rights released a report regarding the psychological effects of family separation. The report came after an in-depth review and psychological evaluation of 26 asylum seekers in the United States. The asylum seekers included nine children and seventeen adults who had been separated from their families.
Physicians noted that individuals who were separated from their families under the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy suffered from psychological trauma. This trauma ranged from conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to depression and anxiety. In almost every case they examined, the group noted some level of psychological trauma that required further intervention. Most of the individuals met the diagnostic criteria for at least one mental health condition.
Many of the individuals were already suffering trauma as a result of violence or other adverse conditions in their home countries. The report concluded that the forced separation exacerbated any pre-migration trauma these individuals endured that led them to seek asylum in the first place. Children, in some cases, were afraid of strangers even after being reunited with their families. In addition, some children showed signs of regression, such as bedwetting and not being willing to leave their parent's side. Reunification was not enough to prevent the trauma. Further interventions and therapy were necessary.
People tend to think of children as being very resilient. However, the fact is that the psychological trauma of forced family separation can haunt a child for years. Family separation can damage the bonds that a parent and child have together. Trauma caused by separation can have a detrimental effect on a child’s schoolwork and social skills and impact their daily lives.
Treatment is Necessary
The report noted that the individuals reviewed in the study most likely required further follow up and treatment for their trauma. Without treatment, the long-lasting effects of trauma could cause symptoms for years to come. The total number of children separated from their families remains unknown. At least 471 parents were deported without their children. Because this psychological trauma is the result of the government's actions, the report notes that the government should be responsible for providing the necessary treatment. In November, a U.S. District Judge ordered the government to begin providing mental health screenings and treatment to families who had been separated under the family separation policy. An appeal of the order has been withdrawn.
If you or a loved one has a mental disability and has been arrested or convicted of a crime, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side. Elizabeth Kelley specializes in representing individuals with mental disabilities. To schedule a consultation call (509) 991-7058.