In the United States, over 18% of the Latino population (which equals over 8 million people), suffer from mental health related issues. In general, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness each year, and 1 in 6 youth (NAMI). It’s a topic that is scarcely talked about within Latinx/Hispanic families, but one that is extremely crucial to our well-being mentally and physically. The taboo surrounding the subject of mental health plays a huge factor in the lack of treatment for those who are in need of care. Around 35.1% of Latinx/Hispanic adults receive care for mental health related illnesses compared to the national average of 46.2%, (NAMI). The underlying reasons that identify this gap in affordable and equal access to treatment services vary.
Let’s take a further look at some potentials in why statistics remain relatively low in the Latino community for mental health related care.
In general, mental illness can affect anyone. Culturally speaking, the Latino community is typically very private when it pertains to personal issues or challenges they may be going through. Many times, Latinos may fear being stereotyped as crazy or looked down upon in a negative fashion if they were to vocalize their struggles with mental health. For this reason, many choose not to disclose their personal struggles, and some may not recognize the symptoms of mental illness due to a lack of knowledge or education on the subject. Language barriers also exist with indigenous or Spanish-speaking individuals and prove harder to find access to treatment and resources. Lack of health insurance and immigration status are also potential reasons for treatment disparities within the Latinx/Hispanic communities.
In terms of mental illness itself, what exactly can be classified as such? According to the National Alliance on Mental illness (NAMI), “A mental illness is a condition that affects a person’s thinking, feeling or mood.” Mental health illnesses can also affect everyday functioning for people and can limit otherwise normal activity for some.
Mental illness and mental health conditions can also be used interchangeably and fall into a variety of categories for different conditions. Those conditions include; anxiety disorders, depression, bipolar disorder, ADHD, personality disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorders, psychosis, and Schizophrenia (NAMI). These are just some mental health conditions that do exist, but there are far more than can fall into this category and be defined. Suffering from these types of conditions can make it debilitating for people to function on a daily basis, and affect an individual in the way of their thinking, behavior, and mood. Numerous factors persist as to why people may suffer from these conditions and can be traced to those who have experienced mental and physical abuse, homelessness, chronic illnesses, disabilities, trauma, sickness, substance abuse, addiction, as well as genetics along with lifestyle and environmental factors. The good news is, resources are available for those in the Latino community or in underserved communities who do need help.
Let’s now dive into some resources and recommended coping mechanisms from health professionals.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, it is recommended to seek help from a professional mental health therapist or see a local primary care doctor who can assist in referring patients to therapists or specialists. For those in Spanish-speaking or marginalized communities, seeking resources from your local health provider is a great step in the right direction. Finding the right doctor who can assist you within your community and from someone who can relate and understand your culture is essential. This could make it easier for those who want help as they may feel more comfortable and trustful of the healthcare profession.
Online resources also exist that can help in finding local therapists who cater to inclusive and BIPOC communities. The following are a few organizations that have the potential to assist those seeking help.
Inclusive Therapists are an organization that does just that. They have available resources online that enable people to search for BIPOC therapists in their state, and a list of calendar events that are offered virtually or in person depending on the state you reside in at various prices. Some events include coping mechanisms for anxiety, grief and loss groups, chronic health issues, therapy sessions, online groups for Women of Color, plus many more.
Latinx Therapy is another online resource that can be of assistance. There you will find a podcast that discusses mental health stigmas relating to the Latinx community and a directory is also available to search for Latinx therapists and counselors locally by state.
Therapy for Latinx is another great resource as they provide online directories by state that can help connect a potential patient to a local therapist. There is an option to search for therapists who accept sliding scale fee’s in certain states, and contact information for hotlines such as crisis help, disaster distress, military crisis, national sexual assault hotline, national suicide prevention hotline, trans lifeline, and more. Rtor.org is also a resource that is devoted to helping people connect with expert treatment services. Mental Health America also provides resources that are available in Spanish. The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline has information and resources in English and Spanish as well. If you or anyone you know is dealing with a mental health crisis, do not hesitate to reach out for help.
Call or text the NAMI Helpline at 800-950-6264
Call or text 988 for the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline
Below are online mental health resources