Research Topic

Improving Mental Health for Immigrant Populations

About this Research Topic

As the global number of refugees, asylum seekers, migrants, and immigrants continues to rise, it is urgent to address the unique mental health challenges faced among these populations. Although immigrants on average show greater health outcomes than the native-born population of any given host country, this trend fades the longer that foreign-born individuals spend in that country, and there is not yet evidence that this “healthy immigrant effect” applies to all mental health conditions. The experience of immigration increases risk for discrimination, low social support, and minority stress. And the experience of being a racial/ethnic minority increases likelihood for greater severity and longer duration of psychological distress.

Immigrants often face serious disparities in accessing mental health care. Common barriers include language difficulties, lack of health insurance, lack of awareness about free mental health services, residential mobility, competing logistic demands of work and childcare, cultural norms that discourage discussing mental health or seeking professional help, and mistrust in health care professionals and government services. Among immigrants that do receive care, it is more likely to be lower quality of care, with worse outcomes. There are evidence-based practices of relatively low-cost that improve quality of care and health outcomes, such as bilingual providers, medical interpreters, community health workers, peer support services for mental health and substance use disorders, and integrated behavioral health services within primary care. Yet many of these practices are not available in behavioral health settings, and not billable by public insurance companies.

Improving mental health outcomes for immigrant populations requires listening to voices from immigrant communities, and collaboration among community organizations, health professionals, social scientists, and policy makers. Research in this collection examines: 1. Current trends and risk factors for mental health challenges among immigrants, 2. Culturally appropriate interventions and treatment, and 3. Efforts to reduce disparities in access and quality of care, and 4. Prevention initiatives for strengthening community resilience and well-being.

Articles in this collection explore topics such as: the interplay between parental mental health, childhood physical health, and cultural stress; the impact of neighborhood context on socio-emotional outcomes in immigrant youth; psychometrics of screening scales for comorbid mental illness and substance use disorders in multi-lingual populations; and development and adaptation of interventions to reduce depression and anxiety symptoms among older adult immigrants delivered by community health workers.

This Research Topic welcomes contributions from the fields of psychiatry, medicine, social science, public policy, law, and other disciplines that explore mental health and immigration, with a focus on reducing mental health outcome disparities.

Image credit: Youth with poster – Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/71881249@N05/7053725307 by ckoettl is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0. Flag Background – Canva graphics.


Keywords: refugees, asylum seekers, migrants, immigrants, mental health, substance use, trauma


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

As the global number of refugees, asylum seekers, migrants, and immigrants continues to rise, it is urgent to address the unique mental health challenges faced among these populations. Although immigrants on average show greater health outcomes than the native-born population of any given host country, this trend fades the longer that foreign-born individuals spend in that country, and there is not yet evidence that this “healthy immigrant effect” applies to all mental health conditions. The experience of immigration increases risk for discrimination, low social support, and minority stress. And the experience of being a racial/ethnic minority increases likelihood for greater severity and longer duration of psychological distress.

Immigrants often face serious disparities in accessing mental health care. Common barriers include language difficulties, lack of health insurance, lack of awareness about free mental health services, residential mobility, competing logistic demands of work and childcare, cultural norms that discourage discussing mental health or seeking professional help, and mistrust in health care professionals and government services. Among immigrants that do receive care, it is more likely to be lower quality of care, with worse outcomes. There are evidence-based practices of relatively low-cost that improve quality of care and health outcomes, such as bilingual providers, medical interpreters, community health workers, peer support services for mental health and substance use disorders, and integrated behavioral health services within primary care. Yet many of these practices are not available in behavioral health settings, and not billable by public insurance companies.

Improving mental health outcomes for immigrant populations requires listening to voices from immigrant communities, and collaboration among community organizations, health professionals, social scientists, and policy makers. Research in this collection examines: 1. Current trends and risk factors for mental health challenges among immigrants, 2. Culturally appropriate interventions and treatment, and 3. Efforts to reduce disparities in access and quality of care, and 4. Prevention initiatives for strengthening community resilience and well-being.

Articles in this collection explore topics such as: the interplay between parental mental health, childhood physical health, and cultural stress; the impact of neighborhood context on socio-emotional outcomes in immigrant youth; psychometrics of screening scales for comorbid mental illness and substance use disorders in multi-lingual populations; and development and adaptation of interventions to reduce depression and anxiety symptoms among older adult immigrants delivered by community health workers.

This Research Topic welcomes contributions from the fields of psychiatry, medicine, social science, public policy, law, and other disciplines that explore mental health and immigration, with a focus on reducing mental health outcome disparities.

Image credit: Youth with poster – Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/71881249@N05/7053725307 by ckoettl is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0. Flag Background – Canva graphics.


Keywords: refugees, asylum seekers, migrants, immigrants, mental health, substance use, trauma


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

19 June 2020 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

19 June 2020 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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