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The world is never more focused on health and fitness than at the beginning of a new year. When it comes to immigrants, the relationship between parent and child is much more complicated. Because I am born in the United States and more accustomed to the culture, language, and societal structure of the United States, I often feel responsible for translating the culture to my parents.
Even at a young age, many of my immigrant peers and I have had to learn to translate documents, bills, and even laws to my family.
This created a shift in the parent-child relationship that forced us to take responsibility for our families earlier on and also exposes us to family struggles that many other children were shielded from. As a disclaimer, I am not suggesting that immigrant parents are not good parents.
I am merely saying that being immersed in a new culture is difficult to navigate, and immigrant children often end up providing guidance in that sense. Practical Barriers: Affordability As with many lower-middle-class immigrant families, the little money that we have is hard-earned, and most goes into paying for food, shelter, and basic utilities. Therefore, as long as someone gives the appearance of being functional in everyday life, their health struggles are not given additional thought.
This is especially true for mental illness, an invisible struggle. Additionally, because my parents are resting their hopes and dreams of success on me, other resources they have are often devoted to my future, such as paying my college tuition. These costs add up, making long-term mental health treatment difficult.
Language Barrier Even if I wanted to, I would not be able to have a conversation about mental health with my family. Mental illness itself is already difficult to put into words.
Describing mental illness in a language that one is unfamiliar with — and where terms for mental health are so stigmatized that they are more so used as casual insults than actual medical terms — makes the conversation nearly impossible and largely unproductive. To be the child of an immigrant means growing up faster. To be the child of an immigrant means taking responsibility for your family.
To be the child of an immigrant is to carry the hopes and dreams of your lineage. The pressure that children of immigrants face is high, and the mental health support is low.
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