Identity Issues of Immigrant Youth

Skin Deep is the title of a short movie presented for the “Equilibrium, self harmony” an organization that promotes awareness of self injury (SI), by educating; offering help to people that harm themselves. Skin deep shows the story of a Pakistani boy living in Britain, who has been psychologically affected for being bullied when he was a child. Self-harming, cutting his hair until bleeding, or treating himself with disrespect for his Pakistani origins are only his ways of releasing his frustration and his anger.

It is proved that SI phenomenon is popular especially amongst young people that tend to harm themselves pain and wounds.

Reasons of performing self-injuries are led to psychological issues that obviously are related to the vulnerability of the person and thus, his/her particular emotional and mental state. The mental state of young expatriates, immigrants, or of people belonging to a nationality other than the local one deserves particular attention from the family, and social environment. It is crucial to understand the cultural diversity, political, environmental and social factors that might impact the lives of young people. Especially the young are an easy target to be bullied for their cultural origins and especially initial reactions might be: physical isolation, transnational friction, ethnic rivalries sense of separation from their home all led to psychiatric disorders, vulnerability to trauma, stress and depression.

Important elements can be encountered in the short movie which explains very well the final self- injury gesture of the main character. First of all the stereotyping versus national English features: in the first part of the short English people are represented by emphasising national features, the British nationalist poster or the lighter with the English flag; opposite to it are the element of stereotyping, for instance the jokes of the comedian, the people that look at the Pakistan boy while he enters to the pub, and the jokes over the little Pakistan sister.

Secondly the acculturation pressure: The Pakistan boy wants to be accepted by the English group therefore he has to behave as they do, talking in the way they do. The emphasis on the Pakistan guy’s hair is significant all over the short. The hair, in fact, mark the difference between the two cultures therefore, the gesture of cutting them results to be the ultimate level of his cultural psychosis and it represents the fulfilment of achieving “Britishness. The acculturation pressure is clear also when he rejects his own culture, for instance when he asks to his sister to walk before him, when he does not accept his sister’s gift with regard, when he does not admit to be Pakistan and even more when he turns to be very aggressive with other two Pakistani guys or the Chico at the window. His behaviour with the English is clearly a result of an escalation of psychological pressures he felt from 1. his own culture: for instance in the shot of the father that recommends for being carful, or also in the shot of his family wearing traditional clothes 2. English culture: memories of being bullied are particularly affective on his psyche.

The ultimate gesture of shaving his head until bleeding and yelling at his image reflected in the mirror represent the extreme frustration of a young boy who cannot integrate himself easily in the English society, who copes with his own identity by rejecting it, rejecting his cultural origins, his traditions, his past and developing a form of “Self-hate” sentiment. He feels extremely lonely, isolated, sad, and trapped in a reality who he does not belong to but that he pretends to enjoy by committing violence to himself. Provoking himself wounds seems to be the only way to release his anger and frustration, the personal punishment is considered the final payment for being a minority, for being a “Paki”, the material action to blame himself for who he is. Now, the short movie illustrates very well a sad reality that multicultural society has to deal with. Melting pot of cultures has also its own risks that have to be prevented in order to guarantee the health and well being of expatriates, especially of young people. The mental health of expatriates has to be considered with high regard by family or health care system since consequences, especially amongst young people, are clearly alarming. It is proven that either in the U.S. or in Europe young expatriates are likely exposed of illicit drugs, alcohol, developing stress and depression due to loneliness, isolation, exclusion or rejection. Thus, it is relevant to implement strategies to educate families about the possible risks of their young children, to bridge the communication between families and health care. Some mental disorders are completely hidden because of uncertainty, or mistrust towards the health system, or because of lack of information. An American report estimated a consistency of depression amongst young immigrant Latinos; problems of bipolar disorders seem to be very common and often not well treated since childhood because they are not even diagnostic. The frustration of an expatriate has to be met on time before transforming it in worse depression resulting in alcohol abuse, illegal drug addiction, or in physical actions such as self-injuries or even suicide.

HSE Ireland National Intercultural Health Strategy 2007-2012 and in Metal Health In Ireland: Awareness and Attitudes’s reports entail requirements and attentions to the mental health of expatriates especially of refugees and asylum seekers, to develop the cultural competence of medical staff in this specific field. Meeting the mental needs also of non-Irish people is a challenging task, significant to enhance a peaceful and effective integration of expatriates.