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New study says
Amerasians at risk from psychosocial ills
by Ding Cervantes
ANGELES CITY- A new study released yesterday said that most of some 6,000 Amerasians in this city are under “high psychosocial and mental health risks” resulting from their abandonment by their American fathers when the US Air Force pulled out from its former base at Clark Field here in 1991.

Dr. Pete Kutschera of the New York-based National Amerasian Research Institute (NARI) revealed yesterday his study at a press briefing at the Paradise Ranch at Clark. “Results showed 62.5 percent of the sample scored severe levels of core level symptomatology (depression, anxiety or stress) suggesting psychopathology or mental disorder in significant numbers,” the study said.

This, even as Kutschera warned that more Amerasians are being born to Filipino women working in bars in Japan and Korea where there are US military bases.

“Go to the bars there and find out Filipino women have replaced Japanese and Korean women who have advanced to other careers,” he said. He noted that in foreign lands, most Americans who father Amerasian children do not belong to the military, but work for military contractors.

Kutschera’s study, titled “Stigma, Psychosocial Risk Factors and Mental Health Symptomatology among Amerasians in the Philippines”, zeroed in on children sired by African- and Anglo-American soldiers who used to be based at the former Clark Air Base.

“Twenty years after the historic Mt. Pinatubo eruption, which triggered the exodus of US troops from the former Clark Air Base and the abandonment of an estimated 6,000 to 10,000 Amerasians in Angeles, Pampanga, we find this population to be highly threatened with mental health risks and severe socioeconomic misfortune,” he said.

“In certain respects, it is worsening,” Kustschera warned. The study noted that local Amerasians exhibited “high levels of anxiety, depression and stress trauma.” It also said “many Amerasians may have or are developing various psychopathological illness, i.e., clinical and severe depression, bipolar disorder, acute distress disorder, adjustment disorder and, in extreme cases, post traumatic stress disorder, psychosis or paranoid schizophrenia and other complications in mental illness due to heavy drug and alcohol dependency.”

Kutschera lamented the lack of even academic interest in the welfare of Amerasians. He noted that only a few articles could be found about them through Google and that the last study conducted on Amerasians was by the Asian Center of the University of the Philippines.

FACTORS CONTRIBUTING TO MENTAL ILLNESS

The study cited “risk factors” that have triggered psychological and mental threats to Amerasians, saying these were “stigma-related, including exposure to biracial tension and violence, name-calling, abandonment despair, identity confusion, and derivative family strain.”

He noted that most Amerasians begin to notice stigma at the age of five or six. “That’s when others start calling them names and they ask their mothers why they are different from the rest,” he said.

The study ranked the risk factors as follows: abandonment by father or at times even by both parents, poverty, homelessness or squatter housing, unemployment or underemployment, personal violence or being victim of battery, alcohol or drug abuse or dependency, difficulty in accessing mental health opportunities, and low educational attainment.

It also noted that in some cases, the stigma against Amerasians was triggered by accusations that their mothers had worked as prostitutes.

“Many Amerasians repeatedly witnessed schoolyard bullying, street gang attacks, intra-family abuse, or general violence directed at their friends or acquaintances based on stigma-laden and discriminatory behavior,” it added.

The study also revealed that Amerasians of African-American descent “experienced higher levels of psychopathological symptomatology” including depression, anxiety and stress as they are more subjected to name calling.

RECOMMENDATIONS

Kutschera’s study said much of the problems confronting Amerasians here and in other parts of the country rely on response from the US government.

Kutschera lamented that the 1987 Amerasian Homecoming Act allegedly discriminated against Filipino Amerasians while opening US immigration opportunities to those from other countries such as Vietnam and Korea.

“The reason cited was that the US had fought wars in these countries. But even then, Clark and Subic naval base in the Philippines were used as launching pads for those wars,” Kutschera said.

He thus called for a review of the 1987 Amerasian Homecoming Act. The study also cited the need for “easement of immigration barriers to the US” for Amerasians, as Kutschera lamented that recently, there have been cases wherein the US embassy even added DNA test requirement to establish American paternity.

“There should also be a review of American embassy visa checklist for Amerasians. Some have referred to such checklist as checklist from hell,” Kutschera added.

Kutschera stressed that meanwhile, “therapeutic psychiatric and social work treatment initiatives” are needed for the Amerasians.

He also cited the need for “recognition of Amerasian issues by the academia, research strategy plans and options for them, as well as support from non-profit foundations and non government organizations.”
 
 
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