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Mental health in the Latino community

Mental Health Matters

Without mental health we cannot be healthy. Any part of the body, including the brain, can get sick. We all go through events that cause us emotional ups and downs from time to time. Mental health conditions go beyond these emotional reactions we have to specific situations. These are medical conditions that cause changes in our way of thinking and in our mood. These changes can be life-altering, making it difficult for you to relate to others and affect your performance. Without proper treatment, mental health conditions can worsen and make your daily life difficult. If you think you or a loved one might be experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition, remember that:

  • They are a biological disorder
  • Anyone can have a mental health problem
  • It's not your fault or your family's
  • Seeking treatment can help you live a full life and is a way to strengthen you and your family.

How Mental Health Conditions Affect the Latino Community?

The most common mental health conditions in the Latino community are:

Other problems associated with mental health conditions are:

Despite the fact that the Latino community shows a similar predisposition to mental health conditions, when compared to the rest of the population, unfortunately, there are discrepancies in access to treatment and in the quality of treatment they receive. This inequality exposes Latinos to a higher risk of having a mental health condition or crisis episode. As a community, Latinos are less likely to seek psychiatric counseling or treatment for their mental health. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in 2012, only 27.3% of Latinos with a mental health condition sought professional help for their mental health care.[1] 

Issues to Consider

There are different reasons that prevent Latinos from seeking and receiving quality care.

Lack of Information and Confusion Regarding Mental Health

In general, the Latino community does not talk about mental health issues. There is little information about it, and we cannot know what no one has taught us. Many Latinos don't seek treatment because they don't recognize the symptoms of the conditions or don't know where to find help.

This lack of information increases the stigma associated with mental health conditions. Many Latinos do not seek help or treatment for fear of being labeled “crazy” or someone with a mental health condition, as this can cause shame.

Don't let fear of what others might think of you or a loved one stand in the way of recovery. One in four people is affected by mental health conditions. This means that even if we are not talking about mental health conditions, it is very likely that we have a condition or that we know someone who does.

Privacy Concerns

Many of us know the saying: "dirty clothes are washed at home". Members of the Latino community tend to be reserved and do not share in public the problems they face at home.

Don't worry, seeking mental health care doesn't mean you'll lose your privacy. Your diagnosis, treatment plan, and discussions with your mental health provider are confidential. They cannot share this information with other people without your permission. Also, mental health providers are professionals who understand what you are going through and will listen to you without judgment.

Language Barriers

Language barriers can cause difficulties when communicating with doctors. Today many medical professionals speak a little Spanish, especially in areas of the country where there is a large Latino community. However, even if they speak a little Spanish, they may not understand cultural issues.

If you or a loved one needs help, but you do not speak English, or do not have a good command of the language, you have the right to the service of access to another language, offered in the institutions that receive funding from the federal government. You have the right to request a trained interpreter and to receive forms and information in Spanish.

Lack of health insurance

Latinos represent a third (1/3) of the population that does not have health insurance coverage. Many members of the Latino community are self-employed or paid minimum wage. For this reason, these Latinos often do not have health insurance.

The Affordable Care Act makes it easy and affordable to get health coverage to treat health conditions. For more information view:  https://www.cuidadodesalud.gov/es/.#sthash.MJ4OKM94.dpuf

Misdiagnosis

Cultural differences can lead doctors to misdiagnose Latinos. For example: Latinos often describe symptoms related to depression as nervousness, tiredness, or a physical illness. These symptoms are related to those of depression, but a person who does not know how the culture influences mental health may not recognize them as symptoms of depression.

Legal situation

For immigrants who arrive without documentation, the fear of deportation can cause panic and prevent them from seeking help. For example: even though millions of undocumented children qualify for health coverage thanks to the Affordable Care Act, most families are afraid to register.

Natural Medicine And Home Remedies

Some Latinos rely on curanderos and home remedies to deal with health problems. Mental health is no exception. If these methods are important to you and help you, keep using them. However, we encourage you to consider finding a mental health professional. Ask your doctor to include your natural and home practices as part of your treatment plan. Mental health professionals are experienced and know what treatment can best help you.

Faith and Spirituality

Faith and spirituality can support you and help you overcome difficulties you face when dealing with mental health conditions. If spirituality is important to you, talk to your doctor about the importance of faith in your life. Your spirituality practices can be part of your treatment plan.

Contact your spiritual leaders and religious community, they can provide help and support in difficult times caused by mental health conditions. Unfortunately, however, there are times when faith communities can be sources of distress and frustration if they do not know how to support families facing mental health conditions.

How to find the right provider for you

Cultural Competence in Mental Health Care Services

Culture, beliefs, personal norms and values, and language are key to all aspects of our lives, including our mental health. Cultural competence is a doctor's ability to recognize and understand the role that culture (yours and theirs) plays in treatment, and how to appropriately adapt it to best help you. Unfortunately, studies show that there is a lack of cultural competence in the psychiatric field, resulting in misdiagnosis and inappropriate treatment. This causes Latinos and other minority communities to tend to receive poor quality care.

However, you can improve your chances of receiving care from a health professional who is sensitive to cultural differences.

Although we recommend that you go directly to a mental health professional, since this is their specialty, if you don't feel comfortable, your general practitioner is a good place to start. Your doctor can start your evaluation or help you get a referral to see a mental health professional.

Unfortunately, even though you may prefer to find a Latino mental health professional, this may be difficult or not possible because the percentage of Latino providers is so small. Fortunately, the demand for professionals to learn how to treat people from diverse communities is increasing. However, many providers are still not culturally competent and do not know how to effectively help and serve Latinos effectively.

When you meet with your provider, don't be afraid to ask questions to find out their level of cultural sensitivity. Don't feel bad or embarrassed asking questions. Providers expect and welcome questions from their patients, as these help them better understand and know what is important to you. Your questions give your doctor and health care team more information about you and important health care concerns you have.

Here are some questions you can ask:

  • Have you treated other Latinos?
  • Have you received training in Latino cultural competency or mental health care?
  • How do you think our cultural settings influence our communication and my treatment?
  • How do you plan to integrate my beliefs and practices into my treatment?

A provider who understands your culture and your needs will know culturally specific and relevant information. For example: you may describe what you feel with phrases commonly used in the Latino community such as "my heart hurts." This is an expression of emotional distress, not a sign of chest pain. A doctor who is sensitive to cultural differences will know this, and will not assume that you are literally talking about chest pain.

Your mental health provider will play an important role in your treatment, for this reason it is important that you make sure that you can work and communicate well with that person. Mention your beliefs, values ​​and cultural characteristics. Look for or try to be sure that your provider understands them so that they can be included in your treatment. For example, mention whether it is important to you that your family be involved in your treatment.

If your financial situation does not allow you to seek help, contact your local medical or mental health clinic, or your local government to find out what services or help you qualify for. You can find contact information on the Internet at www findtreatment.samhsa.gov, or by calling the National Helpline phone number, 800-662-HELP (4357). If you don't have papers, contact your local Latino organizations; They can help you or refer you to an organization that can.

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