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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

GW: Deportation or Detention of a Family Member Puts Latino/a Adolescents at High Risk of Suicidal Thoughts and Other Health Threats

Latino adolescents with a family member who was detained or deported beginning as early as 2017 were at high risk of suicidal thoughts, early alcohol use, and risky behaviors that can lead to school failure and chronic health problems. The findings from the study led by Dr. Kathleen M. Roche, an associate professor of prevention and community health at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health, were published March 16 in JAMA Pediatrics.

“Our study offers the first direct scientific evidence indicating that current U.S. immigration policies might contribute to serious mental and behavioral health risks for Latino/a youth,” Dr. Roche said. “A deportation or detention in the family may put these young people, most of whom are U.S. citizens, at risk of serious health problems and a downward trajectory that could be hard to reverse.”

In this study, Dr. Roche and her colleagues surveyed 547 Latino/a youth attending middle or high school in suburban Atlanta. Most of the students were 11 to 14 years old when enrolled in the study and had been born in the United States. Dr. Roche and her colleagues asked the young participants if they had a parent, aunt, uncle or other family member who had been detained or deported in the prior year, a time frame including 2017 and 2018.

“This study found that among kids with a deportation or detention in the family, 28 percent later reported thinking of killing themselves sometimes or often; 18 percent said they had consumed alcohol and 23 percent had engaged in a high level of risky behavior,” Dr. Roche said.  “The findings are worrisome because these kinds of risks during the early teen years often result in problems well into adulthood.”

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