CISS Practicum: Researching Mental Health of Haitian Migrants

Francesca McLaren has arrived to Chile for a three-month practicum to compare symptoms and the consequences of depression among Haitian migrants.

July 15, 2022

Francesca McLaren, Master’s in Public Health candidate, has arrived to Chile for a three-month practicum to compare symptoms and the consequences of depression among Haitian migrants living in Chile and Mexico.

McLaren is one of the five graduate students from the Mailman School of Public Health that will be in Chile to perform their global practicums with Universidad Mayor’s Research Center on Society and Health (CISS). For her project, she will work with CISS professor Teresita Rocha-Jiménez.

“In recent years a combination of Chile’s 2018 immigration reform policies and the Covid-19 pandemic has catalyzed an increasing number of Haitian migrants to make the long and treacherous journey from Chile to Mexico, in hopes of crossing the US/Mexico border. I have been helping write a paper which uses data from qualitative interviews of Haitian migrants living in Santiago and Tijuana to describe their trajectories and the unique impacts their migration journeys have on their mental health,” she said. “I am now starting to write my own paper detailing the challenges and lessons learned from conducting mental health research with the Haitian populations living in migrant camps. It has been really exiting to be a part of this project because the Haitian migrant population is significantly under-represented in mental health and migration research.”

McLaren studied Anthropology at University College London where she developed interests in mental health and global health. “I chose to pursue a Master’s degree in Public Health because I wanted to develop a more practical application of my interests, and this project has been perfect for that! I’ve been able to conduct some field visits in one of the migrant camps in the city and meet some of the Haitian collaborators and participants of the study,” she noted. “These visits have been so fascinating and opened my eyes to what it really means ‘to do’ global health research. They’ve also really helped me start to evaluate where I want to situate myself in the global health landscape once I graduate.”

In her free time, McLaren has an affinity for travel. With her fellow practicum participants at CISS, she has traveled to Valparaíso and Viña del Mar and taken salsa classes. She has also curated an “extensive list” of cafes, restaurants, galleries and activities to do in Santiago and trips outside of the city, and looks forward to traveling into the Andes Mountain range to see the snow, as well as to the Atacama Desert.