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Language barriers may exacerbate immigrants' health issues

When a person leaves his or her homeland and immigrates to the United States, he or she undoubtedly faces a great number of challenges during the journey.  When immigrants have fled war-torn nations or places where their lives were in constant danger, their mental conditions often suffer. Many, in North Carolina and beyond, find that language barriers impede their ability to get the help they need.

A Vietnamese immigrant who is now part of an organization that helps refugees stated that he has recurring nightmares stemming from his time in re-education camps. He said that immigrants often suffer similar experiences that result in a type of post-traumatic stress disorder once they arrive in the United States. The man, who works as an executive director for a coalition that helps immigrants, said that many who suffer do not want others to know, and those who do seek either physical or mental help are often limited because of a language barrier.

The inability to communicate one's symptoms to medical professionals can impact a doctor or psychologist's ability to properly assess a situation and offer appropriate treatment. One common problem lies in immigrants nodding or smiling when physicians are speaking, thus giving the false impression that they have understood what has been said. Many immigrants are also unable to afford prescribed medications or other treatments related to chronic health conditions.

Fortunately, immigrants in North Carolina can seek guidance and support from legal professionals. Attorneys who are experienced in immigration-related matters can offer not only legal representation but also advice concerning groups aimed at helping immigrants adjust to life in the United States. Regardless of the needs immigrants have, immigration attorneys are valuable allies.

Source:, "Language barriers compound disease, trauma for Southeast Asian refugees", Arielle Levin Becker, Oct. 21, 2015

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