Voice

July-August 2012

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SPOTLIGHT by Dr. Megan Seltz Nepali Cultural Norms: Why So Hush? N significant political caste and ethnic divisions still persist today, causing Nepali clients profound hardship. They re- port instances of abduction, extortion, and abuse for po- litical dissent or participation in democratic parties. Also, women recount being the victims of domestic violence. Nepali cultural norms are quite different from what we epali nationals began immigrating to the United States in large numbers as a result of a decade-long civil war that ended in or around 2006. However, as U.S. citizens know. Families may suffer significant hard- ship if they are deported to Nepal. For example, corporal punishment as a mode of discipline is reportedly common in Nepali schools. Nepali clients facing removal are oſten concerned about the difficulty their Nepali-American children will face as a result of their inability to speak the language, and failing students are strictly disciplined. Clients with psychological disorders have added chal- lenges. One U.S. citizen child with Attention Deficit Hy- peractivity Disorder, which results in inattention, disor- ganization, and impulsivity, recalled being hit in the head regularly by his teachers while attending Nepali schools. His parents, who were living in the United States out of legal status, reported that because they could not find psy- chological services for their son in Nepal, they discontin- ued his treatment, causing him to become unruly. Now 11 years old and in the United States, this child, when asked about his parents' possible deportation, stated, "I want my family to stay together and am not sure what will happen to [my parents], but I am not going back to [Nepal]." Ulti- mately, his parents were granted cancellation of their de- portation based on his hardship. BE SURE TO PICK UP: The Consular Practice Handbook Purchase > AND CHECK OUT: Representing Clients with Mental Health Issues (Downloadable or Audio CD) 14 VOICE pali nationals, however, hesitate to communicate the ex- tent of their turmoil during a psychological interview. In particular, there is a defensive style1 These hardships strengthen asylum claims. Many Ne- emotional symptoms to preserve an image of being "OK," when, in fact, suffering may be more pronounced. One cli- ent reported that "talking about your feelings makes you too open and that is bad. of under-reporting of als report withholding information about their struggles in the United States to protect family members in Nepal. One client lamented, "I was somebody in Nepal and had aspirations," but "now I am a nothing" and "have brought shame on my family. " Furthermore, some individu- parents in Nepal for six months because I cannot lie to my parents and they cannot know how depressed I am [in the U.S.]" One client with a history of tuberculosis shook and cried as she expressed her distress, saying, "I have never done anything without my family, them about how sick and depressed I have become." Once " Another said, "I didn't speak to my " and "I could never tell she learned about the "one-year rule" for filing an asylum application, she "gave up" for awhile, but sought counsel aſter her depression abated. An immigration attorney can facilitate a candid relation- ship between a client and a mental health professional, who can help the client articulate the hardships experienced in Nepal, and assist the immigration court in understanding consequences of forced return to Nepal. Dr. Megan Seltz is a bilingual clinical psychologist in Jackson Heights, NY. She specializes in psychotherapy, immigration and forensic consultations, and expert evaluations. She can be reached at mseltzphd@hotmail.com. Case examples are provided by clients, with permission, or are typical examples this author has encountered in her work in the Nepali commu- nity. The author's views do not necessarily represent the views of AILA nor do they constitute legal advice or representation. 1 J. Maxmen & N. Ward, Essential Psychopathology and Its Treatment, Revised for DSM-IV (New York, Norton & Co. 2d Ed. 1995) (sometimes called "coping mechanisms," defense mechanisms "are relatively involuntary patterns of feel- ings, thoughts, or behaviors that arise in response to an internal or external perceived psychic danger in order to reduce or avoid conscious or uncon- scious stress, anxiety, or conflict), at 74. SHUTTERSTOCK.COM

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