There’s a mental health crisis occurring in this country, and it’s affecting everyone. The Latinx community is plagued with anxiety issues and depression, undocumented people at the border are struggling with trauma — and border agents are dealing with their own mental health problems.
A new report shows that border patrol agents are battling thoughts of suicide and other mental health issues. It’s gotten so bad that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) are requesting “$2.1 million for the agency’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP), which provides counseling and other help to workers facing personal or job-related issues,” Quartz reports. Writer, Zoë Schlanger tweeted that “at least 100 officers have died from suicide between 2007 and 2018, per CBP’s own numbers.” But the dialogue on social media is whether or not people should even care.
By now we’ve all heard about the incredibly inhumane conditions that undocumented people, including children, have to deal with. They are enclosed in overcrowded spaces, some are under quarantine due to outbreaks of diseases, others are forced to sleep on concrete floors, in freezing temperatures, and in some cases, children have been exposed to sexual and mental abuse at the hands of border patrol employees. So, should we have empathy for border patrol agents?
“I would never feel bad for a single one of them for even half a second,” one person on Twitter said. “They should quit and spend the rest of their lives trying to make up for what they’ve been a part of, otherwise it’s better for society if they do off themselves.” “There is so much to say about the trauma of detention, incarceration, and separation, particularly on children’s brains,” another said. “That story can not be told enough.”
Quartz reports that part of the issue is that because there’s such a need for border patrol agents, some agents that are used to working in more peaceful borders, for example in Canada, are now being transferred to the Southern border and are not equipped to handle the chaos that is taking place there. Some agents have gotten a lot of disdain over their treatment and behavior toward migrants and politicians — Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez can attest to that — including the uncovering of a secret Facebook page in which agents say crude things about the people they’re supposed to protect. This report shows that some agents did not expect to be working under these conditions and have to adhere to such appalling policies under the Trump Administration.
“My continuing thought has been that this level of activity combined with the disastrous policy of wholesale separating children from parents has a very negative impact on CBP personnel. They did not join to take a 2-year-old from his mother,” former CBP Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske told Quartz.