~ J.D. Long-Garcia, AMERICA Magazine
Sometimes accompanying migrants means serving them even after death.
Jesuit Refugee Service’s (JRS) Caminar Contigo, launched in 2021, helps refugees, asylum seekers and displaced persons at the U.S. Mexico border. Before beginning Caminar Contigo, JRS team members had consulted with service providers working on the border, looking for gaps in care that needed filling. “What really stuck out to us,” said Kate Mullins, Caminar Contigo’s psychological support specialist, “was the mental health and psycho-social needs” of migrants.
The limbo experienced by asylum seekers waiting to be admitted to the United States and the traumatic experiences that forced them to leave their home country in the first place take a profound psychological toll.
“Legal teams felt like they did not have the [psychological] skills or capacity to be asking the kinds of probing questions required in asylum claims,” Ms. Mullins said. As part of that process, asylum seekers often have to recount horrific details of their experiences to justify their claims, she explained. Caminar Contigo hopes to address mental health needs that might emerge during that application process or because of other experiences migrant people may have had at or traveling to the border.
“Many of the people who come to the shelters have been through or have experienced significant loss,” said Joan Rosenhauer, the Executive Director of Jesuit Refugee Service USA. “They may have lost loved ones on the way. They may have lost loved ones back in their home country while they were gone, and they never were able to go through the grieving process.”
“The people who are in Mexico have endured a lot of really difficult experiences but are also incredibly resilient to have made it that far,” Ms. Mullins said. “Sometimes helping that person look back at how far they’ve come and reminding them of those strengths helps when they are feeling disempowered.”
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