Hispanic Heritage Month: Examining Mental Health in the Hispanic Community

With National Hispanic Heritage Month set to begin on September 15th, it’s the perfect opportunity to shed some light on important topics, like the role of mental health in the Hispanic community, and how certain mental health stigmas associated with the culture can prevent individuals from seeking help.

National Hispanic Heritage Month is not only a way to bring awareness to issues affecting the hispanic community, but it also highlights many of the varying mental health disparities amongst latinx groups. 

A Breakdown of Latinx Mental Health

To properly discuss latinx mental health, it’s crucial to address certain stigmas, and to understand how the community and the latinx culture views mental health holistically. While attitudes regarding overall mental health continue to trend in a positive direction, the specific landscape of mental health stigma in the hispanic culture has experienced struggles in recent years as a result of the country’s political scene, and other discrepancies. 

Stigmas within the hispanic community include beliefs that people with mental health conditions are:

  • Violent or aggressive
  • Incapable of getting better
  • Unable to perform the same activities or duties as others
  • Dangerous and should be kept away from the public

Several studies also suggest that Familismo, or the collective value of family unity, may play a part in the mental health stigma in Latinx communities. While Familismo would appear to create stronger ties between family members and foster an atmosphere of openness, studies have actually indicated that this idea can have adverse effects on those with mental health conditions. These factors include hostile attitudes from family and relatives, who may underestimate someone based on their mental health, or the idea that discussing mental health is taboo from lack of education, or cultural beliefs. Religion also comes into play, as many in the latinx community may believe that a mental health condition is a moral failing, or a punishment of divine justice.

Mental Health Statistics Among Latinx Communities

An estimated 33% of Latinx adults with mental health conditions receive treatment each year compared to the U.S. average of 43%. Common mental health conditions include generalized anxiety disorder, major depression, PTSD, and excessive use of alcohol/drugs. Suicide is also a concern among Latinx youth. A 2019 study also indicates that Hispanic communities have reduced access to mental health care, roughly 50% less than non-hispanic people in the U.S. 

Other Barriers to Latinx Mental Health Care

While stigmas certainly play largely in the issue, a variety of other barriers also challenge the ability for those in Hispanic communities from seeking mental health treatment. These can include:

  • Language Barriers – These can make communicating with providers difficult when a person is seeking counseling. As talking about mental health is already a rather difficult task, finding the correct words can create more concern and force people to avoid seeking treatment altogether.
  • Poverty/Lack of Health Coverage15.7% of Hispanic/Latinx people in the United States live in poverty. This on its own can create a variety of mental health conditions, especially when finding health insurance to cover the costs of treatment.
  • Legal Status – The fear of deportation to immigrants who arrive without proper documentation can also prevent them from seeking help. Even though millions of children of undocumented immigrants are eligible for health insurance, many families may either be unaware or afraid of separation as a result of treatment.

How to Break the Stigma

Raising awareness about mental health conditions within Latinx communities is key in developing the groundwork necessary for change. By offering support, or sharing resources, those in Hispanic communities can feel comfortable when talking about mental health, and finding treatment. National Hispanic Heritage Month is a perfect time and place to provide these resources, as well as overall support and awareness.

Retreat Behavioral Health has been providing mental health programs for individuals struggling with various mental health conditions. This includes our diversity mental health programs, which seek to provide the proper resources necessary to combat the various stigmas those in Hispanic communities face. Contact us today for more information, or to find a program that is right for you.