School of Social Work Dean Luis H. Zayas was featured on Into the Fold: Issues in Mental Health, the monthly podcast by the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health. Zayas discusses his own work on the mental health needs of children of the undocumented, and the effects of deportation anxiety on their sense of safety in the world.
Zayas begins with a deeply personal account of his own encounter with a young girl who had developed “selective mutism” stemming from her parents’ undocumented status and the proscriptions surrounding it:
“… I was fascinated by this 6 year-old girl who had really internalized or embodied all the proscriptions of her parents: ‘Don’t talk. Don’t tell anybody about us. Behave.’ Those sort of things, to the point where the girl was mute.”
In a recent study, Zayas and his colleagues found that the U.S.-born children of undocumented parents report higher levels of anxiety, and for those whose parents are detained or deported, are also more likely to report depressive symptoms. The need for these children to take cognizance of their parents’ status can impact their emotions and behavior in subtle and dramatic ways, not limited to the selective mutism suffered by the little girl in Zayas’ account.