In recent years, the world has seen an increase in violence in the Central American region commonly known as the Northern Triangle — comprised of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Homicides in this region are at startling highs, with El Salvador reaching the top of the list of most violent countries not at war in 2015. As such, many Central American youth are arriving as unaccompanied minors in the United States. In response, Heartland Alliance International (HAI) initiated a project to better understand the experiences of youth in those countries and to begin to document the ways in which youth are adversely impacted by exposure to violence in their communities. The research team conducted interviews with service providers and key community stakeholders working with youth in El Salvador and the United States. Interviewees were asked to discuss the experiences of violence among youth, consequences of exposure to violence, best practices, and gaps in service provision. An analysis of the interviews with services providers exhibited a complex and multi-faceted problem.
The implications of such experiences are far-reaching. Given the complexity of issues facing Central American youth impacted by violence, Heartland Alliance International has presented several recommendations for mental health programming and interventions in El Salvador.
The aim of this report is to serve as a reference to providers working with youth across service systems, and to provide initial steps in the development and augmentation of mental health programming for youth in Central America’s Northern Triangle.