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Project December 16, 2022

Neglected Mental Health Needs of Relatives of Mexico’s 'Disappeared'

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A mother discovers the skeleton of her son buried in a hidden pit near Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico.

For two years, she has devoted her life to finding him alive. Now this trauma of finding his bones fuses with other traumas. His mysterious disappearance. The frantic searches. The police and prosecutors who refuse to deliver justice. The danger of disappearing herself.

Even so, she continues to demand accountability from local and federal authorities who enable impunity.

She is not alone.

Thousands of relatives of the disappeared in Mexico struggle with complicated grief and other mental health challenges. Most receive inadequate mental health care, or none at all. Many suffer alone. But others who bravely search for their disappeared relatives have come up with homespun “therapies” that they say help—at least temporarily.

In the meantime, innovative psychologists in Mexico are coming up with new therapeutic approaches that may help other relatives of disappeared people in other countries.

For this story, Terry Greene Sterling reports in Mexico and the United States.

A journalist and author based in Arizona, Terry writes this long form narrative for Slate and palabra., a publication of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.

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