For many first-generation young adults of America, having access to and acceptance for mental healthcare can be exceptionally challenging.
Whether the issue is financial, cultural, or having a family who does not understand the need for mental health services, first-generation Americans often struggle in the face of this disadvantage.
You may not be having the same experiences your parents have had, and your vision of being an American citizen in your generation may make you feel overwhelmed and isolated.
First-generation trauma is a very real experience that many young people from immigrant families face, and as such, it’s important to learn more about what you can do to address the way you feel.
Below, we will discuss the experience of being a first-generation American, the desire for mental healthcare access, and what you can do to address your mental health needs.
What Is A First-Generation American?
First-generation Americans are defined as the first generation of a family to either be born and raised in America or to grow up here from a young age.
Being the first generation of a family to live in the US can introduce many different experiences that differ from both what immigrant parents and settled Americans face.
It’s a unique experience, being the first child or group of children in your family to grow up in the US, and as such, the impact can be both positive and negative.
First-Generation Trauma and Mental Health
As a first-generation American, it can be difficult to talk about your experiences growing up in American society due to feeling that those around you may not understand.
However, it can also be a significant challenge to talk to your own family about first-generation trauma out of fear of being seen as ungrateful, judged harshly, or viewed as needy.
Many individuals from migrant families suffer from mental health issues and conditions and because their own parents do not understand or encourage mental healthcare, they feel unable to reach out for help.
It’s not uncommon to find yourself disconnected from your family’s culture when it comes to mental healthcare, as well as feeling lost while trying to navigate the sea of mental health services available in the US.
Misunderstandings with Family
There are several familial thoughts and behaviors that tend to interfere with first-generation Americans seeking mental health services.
Some common issues you have faced or continue to face when mentioning mental health to family members who previously lived outside the US may include:
- Family members advising you to rely on religion when you feel unwell. It’s not uncommon for families who put a lot of emphasis on religious practices to encourage prayer and other religious activity as the sole means of their provision of mental health support.
- Family members being too busy to talk about mental health concerns. For the immigrant parents of first-generation Americans, work plays an important part in everyday life, and it may make sitting down to discuss mental health matters quite a challenge.
- Cultural stigma against mental health services that your family has carried with them from their home country. Many families still believe that mental health services are only for people who are mentally ill, and thus, they have a negative impression of mental health conversations in general.
- Constant pressure from family to be an overachiever. While your family likely wants the best for you, the constant pressure that many immigrant parents place on first-generation children can make it difficult to even approach the topic of mental health. This is often out of fear of being criticized or seen as not good enough.
The Need for Mental Health Services
First-generation trauma can come from an array of different places as the children of immigrant parents work to assimilate into American society.
For one, you may be dealing with high-pressure academic situations or working after school which has put an end to your childhood.
You may be experiencing external racism from those around you which has embedded internalized racism into your thoughts and feelings.
You may be struggling to understand exactly where you stand when it comes to being an American and how you feel about the identity of your home.
Even years after being in the US, you may still struggle to push past the negative impact that first-generation trauma has had on your life.
For this reason, many first-generation Americans choose to speak to a licensed, culturally sensitive mental health therapist who provides unbiased, neutral support.
If you’d like to seek support for the struggles you face as a first-generation American, you’re welcome to contact our offices as soon as you’re ready. We’ve helped many people struggling with first-generation trauma, and we would be honored to help you, too.
Please feel free to reach out to us to set up a complimentary consult call so we can match you with the best therapist for your situation.