Laura is fifteen and from Huntington Beach, California. Laura’s mom is undocumented, and that has affected her since she was a young child. As she became a teenager, Laura’s anxiety turned into obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD, which Laura describes as a “trap” in her story. In the story, Laura talks about the path she took trying to accept her OCD for herself, but also for her parents to accept it so Laura could get the help she needed. She learned to advocate for herself and her needs.
About the documentary Life on the Line, Laura says, “Kimberly’s a very strong girl, because she never seemed to complain… she has that struggle with the income in her family and having to cross the border every day to go to school. She really inspires me to face the situation I’m in, because nothing is really as bad as it seems.”
Laura isn’t alone. The CDC estimates that at least 1 in every 200 children and teens in the U.S. have OCD, which means there are likely several other youth at Laura’s school who have OCD. The International OCD Foundation says “OCD can affect homework, attention in class, and school attendance. If this happens, you need to be an advocate for your child.” (http://www.ocfoundation.org/childOCD.aspx)
Sometimes immigrant, and particularly undocumented, parents are less likely to seek care not only for themselves, but also for their children, for the obvious reasons of lack of health care access but also for fear of interfacing with authorities from schools and government.
Left unaddressed and untreated, disorders like OCD can lead to depression and even suicide for young people who suffer from it. This study (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2950107/) from the National Institutes of Health shows a high correlation between OCD and depression. The CDC says that one out of ever seven Latina teens (14%) attempt suicide. That’s more than double the rate for white teen girls.
“Dr. Luis Zayas, a psychologist at Washington University who has spent the last 25 years trying to find the reasons behind these startling stats, says that the typical Latina teen who attempts suicide is 14 or 15, the daughter of immigrant parents, lives in a low-income setting and is caught in an intense battle with her mother over the distance between Latino and American cultures.” (from DoSomething.org)
The OCD Foundation provides several resources and a treatment provider database for sufferers of OCD here: http://www.ocfoundation.org/FindHelp.aspx.