Immigrant Youth at Risk for Disorders of Mood: Recognizing Complex Dynamics

Document Type



The number of youth immigrating to the United States from Latin America and the Caribbean has consistently and dramatically been increasing. However, little research or epidemiological data that capture the mental health status of these youth from their countries of origin or once they enter the United States exist. As a result of migration and the acculturation process, these youth are at risk for exacerbation of preexisting mood disorders or development of mood or other psychiatric symptoms. Premigration social and environmental stressors affecting this population include poverty, exposure to violence, sexual or physical victimization, and substance abuse. Postmigration stressors include loss (of friends, family, country, and lifestyle), changes in social support, negative experiences in the United States, language difficulties, and academic challenges. This review of the existing literature will describe the contextual experiences of immigrant Latin American and Caribbean youth from their country of origin and as new immigrants in the United States, discuss their risk for mood disorders, highlight relevant assessment data that should be obtained, and identify treatment implications for advanced practice psychiatric–mental health nurses working with this population.