Saturday, January 02, 2016

Violence in Mexico affected children's mental health

Public Release: 11-Dec-2015
Violence in Mexico affected children's mental health
Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso

Children who lived in Juarez, Mexico -- once dubbed the murder capital of the world -- in 2010 have high levels of behavioral and emotional problems, according to new research by Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso (TTUHSC El Paso).

The finding suggests that the mental health of children was negatively affected by exposure to the mass murders and acts of terror, like kidnappings, bombings and decapitations, related to the city's drug violence.

"I am very worried about the children who lived in Juarez when the drug violence peaked a few years ago," says Marie Leiner, Ph.D., a pediatric researcher at TTUHSC El Paso who led the study and gathered data about the mental health of youth living on the U.S.-Mexico border.

For the study, Leiner compared the mental health of children living in El Paso, Texas to that of children living in its neighboring city Juarez. The idea was to compare a relatively safe city to one that experienced excessive violence. In 2010, more than 3,000 people were murdered in Juarez, while El Paso recorded just five homicides, according to the Chihuahua state attorney general's office and the El Paso Police Department.


After analyzing data collected from both groups, Leiner found that the prevalence of issues like depression, aggression, anxiety, withdrawal and attention deficit disorder were three times higher in children living in Juarez. Children in the Mexico group had significantly high scores even when compared to children with brain injuries, hearing impairments and those whose parents abused cocaine, alcohol and other drugs.

"I'm not saying that kids in El Paso are not affected by violence, but they didn't have this exposure to violence everywhere in their neighborhoods; they didn't attend their family funerals and they didn't go to school to learn that their friends' families were murdered," Leiner says.


In addition, mere exposure to the news could be traumatic and frightening because the Mexican media does not censor images of extreme acts of violence like mutilations.


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