Imagine Health

Psychology & Immigrating

Immigrating to another country can teach you more about life, love and fear than any education or self-help book could. It can broaden your horizons and make you more open minded. Many are attracted to experiencing a new country, to travelling, and to learning a new language and experiencing a new culture. Living abroad has wonderful moments as well as its challenges. Whilst it can be exciting, it can also be a difficult experience on both practical and emotional levels.

Challenges facing immigrants

The stress of the move and adjustment to the new country, can lead to anxiety and depression and other psychological problems amongst migrants. Often the hardest thing for new migrants is coping with the loss of family and friends and the realisation that their loved ones are devastated by their move. This can cause extreme loneliness. Along with this, living in another country can lead to feelings of excessive guilt for missing events at home such as weddings, births, christenings, birthdays, illnesses and funerals. These feelings of homesickness can be exacerbated by language barriers. Language problems can create obstacles to social and professional integration, increase stress, and reduce self-esteem, creating more social isolation.

Culture shock is another element of moving to a new country. Culture shock is the experience of not knowing what is going on in the new culture and finding that normal ways to adapt don’t necessarily work in the new environment. It could lead to depression, withdrawal, fatigue and isolation. Most immigrants go through a culture shock stage, but do not necessarily feel depressed. Another difficult aspect of immigration is finding work. Qualifications are often not transferable, so people with high level qualifications and years of experience do not get as good of a job as they would get in their home country.

New countries take a lot of getting used to. Little everyday things such as mobile phone contracts, road rules, tax laws, bank accounts and public transport routes can be hard to understand and set up especially when there is a language barrier. All of this can take its toll on new immigrants and their families, creating symptoms of depression, anxiety, stress, or other mental health issues.

Strategies for Immigration

  • Research the new place. Before you leave your familiar surroundings, learn about your new destination as much as possible.
  • Think positive. Keep in mind that moving represents new beginnings and new excitement.
  • Create and use a support system. Don’t hesitate to get support from your friends and family in the place you’re leaving. Also keep in mind that you can contact them when you have moved.
  • Make new friends. Join groups, teams or attend classes to meet new friends. Learn as much as you can about the area from these new connections.

Written by Rebekka Johnston