Mental Health and Migration

Borders in the care of oneself and others


By: Dr. José Carlos Palacios Montoya

Coordinator of the degree in psychology

Ibero Tijuana


It can be said that to take care of others we first have to take care of ourselves, also that taking care of others is the best way to take care of ourselves. Actually, they are ideas that complement each other. But these days taking care of ourselves and caring for others often seem like polar opposites.


We live in a time of great selfishness and fundamental ignorance, there is something we do not know: we are all in the same boat. Believing and feeling separate from others is part of our current way of living, my job, my house, my family, all of me.


This is why we establish between ourselves and others, borders of metal, emotions and attitudes. What are the consequences of the mental and material boundaries that organize our lives?


One of the main consequences is the feeling of isolation, loneliness and segregation. That it is a feeling does not mean that it does not correspond to a reality. There are walls that separate us, attitudes too. Let us remember that these attitudes and material realities are the product of ignorance and fear. We believe that we can live without taking care of the lives of others and we live taking care of others.


We do not know that we are connected, an example is what happened on Thursday March 14 in Tijuana: an earthquake damaged a bridge. On Monday the 18th, I asked a friend if closing the bridge would affect us, he told me no, that he was very far from our work space. Hours later we headed to a government office and the traffic that couldn’t get over the bridge caught up with us, we’re all connected, I thought. Later, on the way back from the office, we came across a lot of traffic and many people on the street.


The same coworker asks me what are the stories of the people who end up living on the streets. First I gave him a very technical answer, the data: migration, use and abuse of substances, abandonment due to age or mental illness. Later I realized that he was talking about consequences and not causes of the situation.


The causes are mental and material borders, believing that if I accumulate wealth in an unethical way it will not affect many others, believing that nothing happens if I generate garbage, that water does not run out, that as long as I feel comfortable the world will continue to turn.


After all, I didn’t answer his question, he wanted to know about the stories, then I realized how important the stories are. Knowing that each case counts, that each and every one of those who live on the street has a human story, with misfortunes and joys, perhaps more of some than of others.


I then became aware of a border, a wall in me, one that dehumanizes, that avoided answering the question about the stories, about the human beings in front of me. I was taking care of myself. I am worried and anguished not being able to do something for those who have a hard time. I was afraid of falling into a similar situation. But that form of care is not effective, it is like wearing a blindfold to pass a minefield.


 In the end we are all connected. It is necessary to observe carefully to notice that if being homeless has multiple causes, there will also be multiple ways of dealing with said situation.


For example, the stories and human condition of those who are on the streets can be made visible, share with them something of what we have, change the way we look at them. The most important thing to me is to be attentive to dehumanization, to which our current way of life pulls us and from paying attention to this, to be able to think of multiple courses of action, to take care of ourselves by taking care of others. We are also the others.

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