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Understanding the Mental Health of Haitian Immigrants Living in the United States
Understanding the Mental Health of Haitian Immigrants
Living in the United States
Although Haiti has consistently been one of the more economically and politically troubled nations in the western hemisphere, immigration to developed countries was not as common in the past as it is today. In fact, in decades before Duvalier’s dictatorship only about 3,000 Haitians migrated to the United States (Eide, 1999), but as a result of the severe economic and political stress experienced by Haitians, many left their home country to come to the United States during the early 1960s. In 2000, immigrants from the Caribbean accounted for almost 10% of all immigrants in the United States (Camarota, 2001). More specifically, Haiti was ranked among the top 20 countries of origin for US immigrants. Overall, about 90,834 legal immigrants and a comparable amount of illegal immigrants came to the United States. Most Haitians have situated themselves in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Illinois and Florida.
As the number of Haitians living in the United States continues to increase, it is important for mental health providers to have an understanding of the independent (and additive contribution) of being a migrant and being Haitian to mental health. The purpose of this paper is to 1) provide an overview of Haitian migration history, 2) critically evaluate what is known about the connection between migration and mental health and link these connections to Haitian migration 3) explore Haitian theories of illness 4) and critically evaluate four culturally specific expressions of depression and one propose culturally specific mental health syndrome.
Haitian Migration History
Haitian immigrants have been active participants in several defining moments of U.S. history. For example, in 1772 a Haitian immigrant, Jean Baptiste Point Du Sable, founded the city of Chicago. Additionally, during the first century of United States independence, several Haitian Americans served as...