Mental health stigmas result from negative misconceptions about mental illness and mental health treatment. Often the result of cultural norms, beliefs, and perceptions, as well as a history of systemic inequities, these stigmas are especially prevalent in the Latinx community. If these stigmas are not recognized and efforts not made to break them, they will continue to be a barrier to Latinx individuals getting necessary mental healthcare to live happy and healthy lives for themselves and future generations.
Mental Health Stigmas and Barriers to Mental Health Care in the Latinx Community
Within the Latinx community, common stigmas about mental health and therapy steam from a belief that mental health issues are dangerous and self-inflicted, things will get better on their own, and one should be strong and push through difficult times. There is often a “don’t talk about it” attitude and desire to keep personal issues and family matters private. Some Latinx feel that buying into mental health diagnosis and treatment is a step toward assimilation and thus a step away from cultural roots. Others, whose cultures are highly religious, may feel they can pray away mental health issues. A general lack of understanding and conversations about mental health and the importance of going to therapy secures the stigmas as reality. Access to care due to poverty, inequities, and language barriers cause a greater need for therapy and creates barriers for those in the community to connect to appropriate mental healthcare.
The Need for Mental Health Care in the Latinx Community
Studies show that the need for mental health care and attention is necessary for the Latinx community. The Latinx community is the largest growing ethnic group, and it is one with some of the highest prevalence of those with mental health issues not seeking appropriate mental health treatment. Compared to their non-white counterparts, Hispanic adults are more likely to express sadness, hopelessness, worthlessness and report psychological distress. Yet, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services, SAMHSA, non-Hispanic Whites receive mental health treatment twice as often as Hispanics. In 2019, suicide was the second largest cause of death for Latinx 15-34 years of age. Hispanic females in grades 9-12 are 30 percent more likely to have a suicide attempt than their non-Hispanic white counterparts of the same age. Living in poverty boosts the likelihood of anxiety and depression. Hispanics living below the poverty level are twice as likely to report severe psychological distress as Hispanics over twice the poverty level. Living in poverty and immigration status can impact the ability to obtain health insurance.
Though there are cultural similarities across the Latinx community, there are also unique cultural characteristics based on natural origin that impact mental health and mental health treatment utilization. Research shows that immigrants who identify as Cuban and Puerto Rican are more likely to seek mental health treatment than those who identify as Mexican and Hispanics from other countries. The process of acculturation can additionally impact mental health and the likelihood of seeking treatment. Immigrants tend to have higher associations with PTSD and trauma. American-born Latinx may find increased difficulty balancing between two cultures and identities. Suicide, substance use, and mental health disorders increase for second and third-generation immigrants compared to first-generation immigrants.
Breaking Stigmas and Seeking Therapy as a Latinx
Now more than ever, there is a deeper need to understand the impacts of stigmas, barriers to care, and mental health education in the Latinx community, and ways to educate against stigmas and break down barriers to connect people to appropriate mental health care. Breaking stigmas, overcoming barriers, and seeking therapy starts with education and viewing therapy as an additional tool and resource that can help improve mental health and overall quality of life. When seeking a therapist, it is essential to find a therapist that works for you. Find someone you can relate to, who is culturally sensitive, engaging, and ensures to incorporate your values and experiences into each session. If therapy feels uncomfortable at first, remind yourself that you are worth investing in, and taking ownership of your mental health is not only bettering yourself but at large; it will assist in breaking greater stigmas in the community. Know that therapy is a process, and adjusting to something new, especially if stigmas around it existed, takes time. Be patient; go at your own pace. Assisting love ones in breaking the stigma might be a little harder to do. Be patient and try to guide your family and friends that hold strict stigmas by having an open discussion when you are ready. In these conversations, be as concise and direct as possible and explain how therapy is a useful tool for better health.
Located in Hoboken and Midtown Manhattan, our BeWELL therapists are well learned in a variety of fields and are here to help you become your best self. Whether you are struggling with issues related to Anxiety, Depression, Sexual Orientation, Race and Identity, school, or relationships, BeWELL therapists welcome you with an open ear.