“Se vale llorar y se vale reír”: Latina Immigrants’ Coping Strategies for Maintaining Mental Health in the Face of Immigration-Related Stressors


Latina immigrant women in the U.S. are at increased risk for poor mental health status, due to socioeconomic- and immigration-related stressors. We sought to describe the mechanisms linking immigration-related stressors and mental health, including how the current social and political climate affects women’s mental health status, and which coping strategies are used to maintain well-being. We conducted four focus groups with Latina immigrants (N = 58) recruited through local community-based organizations. We drew on the stages of migration framework to guide our study design and analysis. Focus group transcripts were analyzed to identify emergent themes across groups. On average, focus group participants were 35.5 years old and had lived in the U.S. for 12.5 years. Most were from Mexico. Participants reported immigration-related stressors including unsafe migration, worry about immigration enforcement, broken social ties, and limited access to health and social services. In the face of these stressors, they relied on transnational social networks and connections with other Latina immigrant women. Social ties with family in the U.S. also helped them alleviate social isolation and overcome barriers to social services. Those who were mothers expressed that their children were a source of encouragement and comfort with feelings of stress. Immigration policies that contribute to unsafe migration, worry about immigration enforcement, limited social ties, and limited access to social services were associated with increased stress among Latina immigrants who participated in the focus groups. These participants could benefit from increased access to mental health care and community-based programs that connect them to resources.

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The authors acknowledge the support of their community partners Casa Latina and El Centro de la Raza. They further would like to thank all of the women who participated in the focus groups for sharing their time and their stories.


This research was financially supported by a grant from the National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities of the National Institutes of Health under award number R01MD012230.

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Correspondence to India J. Ornelas.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest. The study was reviewed and approved by the University of Washington Human Subjects Division. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Rios Casas, F., Ryan, D., Perez, G. et al. “Se vale llorar y se vale reír”: Latina Immigrants’ Coping Strategies for Maintaining Mental Health in the Face of Immigration-Related Stressors. J. Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities 7, 937–948 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40615-020-00717-7

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  • Latina
  • Immigrant
  • Migration
  • Mental health
  • Stress
  • Women’s health