For people new to the region from Puerto Rico, anxiety and depression often go untreated

Written by Brett Sholtis/Transforming Health | Apr 9, 2018 1:31 PM
Yesenia Colon-Lopez and her son Adrian Hernandez.jpg

Yesenia Colon-Lopez poses for a portrait with her 9-year-old son Adrian Hernandez. Colon-Lopez moved Harrisburg 10 years ago from Puerto Rico and says she still faces challenges getting educational and behavioral health services for her son. (Brett Sholtis/Transforming Health)

WellSpan family doctor Paul Botros, based in Lebanon, said people new to the region from Puerto Rico face many of the same medical challenges as other adults, diseases like hypertension, diabetes and high cholesterol.

What may be less obvious, Botros said, is the incredible level of stress they endure after leaving behind their homes. He said he's seeing high levels of stress-induced depression and anxiety among Puerto Ricans who came to the region after the September 2017 hurricane destroyed their homes and left them without jobs. "It's a pretty tough situation. You lost your house. You lost your dog. You lost your family members. You're in a whole new environment. You can't find a job. It's a very sad situation. That's probably the chief complaint patients are coming in with."

If that stress isn't managed, it can lead to longer-term anxiety and depression, Botros said. However, mental health needs can be hard to focus on while trying to find food and shelter, care for children and hold down a job.

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