Despite massive progress being made in the world of mental health and therapy, certain stigmas surrounding mental health discussions are unfortunately still ongoing. For some communities and marginalized groups, these discussions are now more crucial than ever to have, and more recently an increase in mental health support for Hispanic/Latinx communities is undeniably necessary. So why aren’t we seeing more Latinx people receiving mental health services?
There are a handful of various contributing factors, and this article will cover several of them, but generally speaking many Latinos do not discuss their private life, or the life of anyone else living in their households, on a regular basis. Many feel that it is inappropriate to discuss family matters outside of their home. As the saying goes, “la ropa sucia lava en la casa.” (Essentially, “don’t air your dirty laundry”) Family business is family business. There comes a heightened risk of judgment, from both family and friends, when personal matters like mental health are discussed so openly.
Family & Social Beliefs
Many Hispanic/Latinx families are raised with religion being a core belief. A core belief is a foundation for how people see themselves, friends, family, others and the world. Religion is a very important part of our culture. Many believed those suffering from untreated mental illness may just be lacking faith or, at the most extreme, possessed by other forces. Either continues to perpetuate the stigma by sidestepping the focus away from mental health itself.
Another core belief is the prevailing adherence towards machismo. The construct of machismo describes beliefs and expectations regarding the role of men in society; it is a set of values, attitudes, and beliefs about masculinity, or what it is to “be a man.” Machismo persona is strong. A lot of Hispanic males fear they will appear weak, lesser than or inadequate. The pressure of having to be the “tough guy” or “macho man” within the male community can also perpetuate the ongoing cycle of stigma.
Lack of Resources
Most minority communities experience stigma around mental health, and the Hispanic/Latinx community is no exception. In some communities, Latinx people may be making their first attempt to seek mental health services. Unfortunately, they may not be able to receive the services they are seeking.
Within the Hispanic/Latinx community, many are left with out-of-pocket costs leaving them unable to continue services or feel that mental health is “not valued or relevant”. Collectively we stress the importance of mental health in our country. But for who? Who is our target population? It should be everyone. However, Latinx people are more commonly discriminated due to difficulty accessing resources and support.
Many Hispanic/Latinx are at a disadvatage because of their socioeconomic status. This leaves them at a disadvantage for resources and other support systems. Additionally, it’s another factor that contributes to furthering emotional health problems. Continuing the cycle of an under-supported population.
Poor communication with health care providers is often an issue, and its exacerbated by the fact that there is a shortage of bilingual or Spanish speaking mental health professionals in the United States. Many organizations do not have bilingual or Spanish speaking providers. This continues to give support and belief in the mental health stigma within the Hispanic/Latinx community since the resources are minimal and seem dismissed.
Lack of Trust
- Legal status
- For immigrants who arrive without documentation, the fear of deportation can prevent them from seeking help. It is difficult to feel comfortable in space where you may not feel safe.
- Lack of psychoeducation
- Many Hispanic people do not seek treatment because they don’t recognize the signs and symptoms of mental health conditions or know where to find help. As we continue to build and offer support, we need to ensure we are providing information as well written in both Spanish and English.
- Language is a contributing factor to many misdiagnoses. Ineffective communication leads to misunderstanding and confusion.
- Cultural Competency
- Cultural Competency is very relative. Being culturally competent is so important for any minority population. Being able to connect and have an understanding of their history, language, traditional meals, language and other traditional practices.
Ending the Stigma
All these factors continue to perpetuate the stigma of mental health with Hispanic/Latinx people. Continuing to feed into these fears and realities keep the stigma of mental health ongoing. As we move forward, we must offer better support for the Latinx community.
Policy changes are needed to increase health insurance coverage in the service and retail industry. The barriers for public benefits must be reduced. More support staff are needed. The best way for community members to offer support is to help minimize the barriers. An increase in access to linguistically and culturally appropriate mental health care providers is of importance to help end the stigma.
Latinx communities have little to no representation. We are aware of the stigma that comes with mental health in our communities. It is helpful if you have someone that looks or talks like you, that you can effectively communicate with which is why cultural competency is so important and relative.
And, we are aware of all the barriers we face in the Latinx community. But it also offers us the opportunity to really talk about it on a deeper level, to help improve ourselves and others around us, and to help end the stigma about mental health for good within our community. In doing so, we’re also making others aware how important this matter is to us right now, especially during Hispanic Heritage Month where it is equally important to celebrate and recognize the joy and vibrancy that the Hispanic/Latinx people has brought, and continues to bring, to the national and global community.
Written by: Samantha Espinosa, MA.
At Clarity Clinic, we have highly trained staff and culturally competent bilingual providers who are eager to welcome any Hispanic/Latinx people seeking therapy and psychiatry services. To learn more about how we can support your mental health, call Clarity Clinic on (312) 815-9660 or schedule an appointment today.