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Long term mental health effects on undocumented children separated from parents

Posted at 5:12 PM, Jun 22, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-22 21:23:16-04

With more than 2,300 undocumented children separated from their families - Mental Health experts are concerned with the trauma the experience will inflict on the children in the coming years. 

Chelle Means was 11-years-old when she separated from her family and put into the foster system. 

RELATED: Immigration lawyer explains why families are being separated

RELATED: Questions linger on what will happen with the already separated children

She tells KGUN9 the circumstances are different from the undocumented children at the border, but the effects are likely, the same.

"I left my home when I was young but it still affects me to this day, so you know these children, they're being traumatized. There's no other way about it. You're ripping them away from their family," says Means. 

Means says she had a traumatic childhood while moving around a lot. "With these kids coming in and not understanding English but kids can still understand emotions, intent, and tone."

H. Clarke Romans, Executive Director of NAMI - the National Association on Mental Illness in Southern Arizona says mental illness is a combination of two factors - genetics and environment. "So these impacts coming to young children have a great potential to trigger potential mental illnesses."

Mental illnesses such as post traumatic stress disorder and depression.

Romans says, the separations of a child from their parent is traumatic enough because of the intense conditions. 
"The child and their parents are in a place that is not really quiet and friendly. It's hostile. It's perhaps noisy and a lot of emotions going around. So it's a scary situation for the child and the parents," says Romans. 

While symptoms of mental illness often takes years to arise - the effects are life long. 

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