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From Silence to Strength

July 27, 2023

Cultivating Mental Health in the Latinx Community

Latinos are supposed to be vibrant. We’re seen as a happy community, always united, and ready to celebrate. Whether it’s a tía’s birthday, Thanksgiving, or just ‘cause, our people are always ready for a good “pari” (party).

But, is that always the case? Or could this be another positive stereotype that affects our mental health?

La Crisis

Latinx individuals often bear the weight of mental health challenges in profound ways. According to a comprehensive study conducted by NAMI California, the mental health crisis among Latino communities is a pressing issue.

Latinx individuals are disproportionately affected by mental health conditions, with higher rates of depression, anxiety, and substance abuse compared to other demographics. 

Even among teenage Latinas, the CDC’s 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Report found that 10.5% of Latina high school students in the U.S. attempted suicide. This percentage is high in and of itself, but it is especially alarming when compared to statistics for white females (7.3%), Latino males (5.8%), and white male teens (4.6).

Los Factores

It goes without saying that stigma and cultural norms can hinder discussions around mental health in the Latinx community. This prevents Latinos of all ages from seeking help and support. 

For many of us, it feels like we have to keep mental health issues to ourselves and deal with it on our own. There’s often shame around personal pain and misunderstanding about illness.

On top of this, there’s the socioeconomic issue of limited access to quality healthcare. Whether it’s lack of insurance, fear due to immigration status, or misinformation – being unable to reach out to a professional further exacerbates the mental health crisis in underserved Latinx communities.

But, as an article from Medical News Today highlights, the reality is that the Latinx community faces a variety of mental health issues that many times go untreated. These include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Stress
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Substance misuse

What worsens the situation?

  • Immigration status
  • Discrimination
  • Cultural assimilation
  • Limited support network

La Escasez

Unfortunately, our community is no stranger to shortages. There’s job scarcity, limited opportunities, food or immigration status insecurity…The list can go on and on. But a significant shortage that few are paying attention to is the lack of Hispanic or Latino therapists in the United States.

While the mental health crisis among Latinos continues, another barrier arises: there are few mental health experts who understand our life experience, or that speak our language. And this is a concerning issue.

According to a study by Zippia, the demographics of the therapy profession show an overall lack of diversity. The percentage of Hispanic or Latino therapists remains alarmingly low, making it challenging for Latinx individuals to find caregivers who truly understand our cultural background and experiences. This scarcity greatly impacts accessibility and inclusivity in the mental health sector.

Research by the American Psychological Association (APA) also sheds light on the shortage of Spanish-speaking therapists: 5% of U.S. psychologists are Hispanic or Latino. But our community represents 19.1% of the population. This means that currently, there are fewer than the ideal number of Spanish-speaking mental health professionals. And this leaves our community with a significant gap in language accessibility and cultural competence for Latinx individuals across the country.

La Necesidad

Diverse perspectives and representation are crucial in the mental health sector, and our community can play a vital role in making therapy and support more accessible and inclusive. Here’s why:

  • Let’s tackle the misconceptions: When you integrate mental health to overall healthcare, it’s easier to accept that it’s OK to not be OK. To help our community normalize emotional wellness, it’s essential to change the negative beliefs around the topic. Through open communication, we can bring our families together to support our loved ones and empower each other to address mental health concerns. 
  • Representation matters: Latinx mental health professionals bring a unique understanding of cultural nuances and can offer tailored approaches to therapy that resonate with our community’s needs. 
  • Information is important: Organizations such as the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) actively work toward increasing the presence of Latinx mental health professionals. These efforts aim to break down barriers, provide support,and promote mental well-being within the Latinx community.
  • We need improved access to care: Having a diverse group of therapists helps bridge the gap between cultural backgrounds and mental health discussion, promoting better access to mental health services. This is an essential step toward destigmatizing mental health within Latinos.

¿Y ahora?

If you feel that our community’s mental wellness is not a public health priority, you’re not alone. At Moira, we also think it’s time to make a change. That’s why we encourage you to reach out to your local politicians, schools, and organizations and ask them to put Latinx mental health at the top of their list.

Remember, there’s also power in numbers. Attending awareness walks, volunteering at local organizations, and donating to causes that support Latinx mental health are all great strategies to create change and overcome stigma.

But, more importantly, mental wellness starts with you: Focus on self-care. Spend time outdoors. Stay active. Talk to your loved ones. Practice mindfulness. Get professional help. Mental health matters, and you matter.

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