July 3, 2018


Cathryn Nacario, RN, MHA
Chief Executive Officer




 NAMI San Diego Speaks Out on Family Separations at the Border

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI San Diego) was created based on the foundation of family involvement. In fact, it was a group of concerned parents of children with mental illness meeting around a kitchen table 40 years ago in San Diego who were the forerunners of what is now NAMI—a national organization with over 900 affiliates with the goal of supporting, educating and advocating for everyone affected by mental illness.

Today NAMI San Diego is the city’s voice on mental illness and through our years of experience, we believe that strong family support is vital to a child’s long-term mental health. The forced separation of families at our country’s borders is highly stressful and can result in trauma because it rips away vital family structure that offers stability and support to growing children and their parents/caregivers.

Cathryn Nacario, CEO of NAMI San Diego said “this practice of separating children from their families creates long lasting trauma and post traumatic stress during vital developmental years that can have lifelong effects.”

There is growing evidence that exposing young children to trauma is toxic to the development of their brains. Traumatic experiences can negatively impact development and mental health as children grow. Prolonged trauma can result in a complex version of PTSD where a severed sense of security and belonging at a young age may impact a person well into adulthood.

These separations can profoundly affect children who do not yet have a mental health condition, as well as those who are currently experiencing symptoms. Ripping families apart undermines not only a sense of security and safety that family unity offers, but also creates anxiety due to the uncertainty in parents and children of when and how they will be reunited.

“This practice of separating families is potentially a huge mental health crisis in the making and it absolutely needs to stop,” Nacario explained. NAMI San Diego joins the American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association, American Academy of Family Physicians and others in urging an immediate end to the practice of separating families.