How COVID-19 has worsened the mental health of the Latino community
Factors like a lack of costs and labor rights have highlighted the mental health crisis that Latinos face during the pandemic.
Currently, the main battle in America is to vaccinate as much of the adult population against COVID-19 in a short amount of time.
Scenes of people receiving their doses of the vaccine at large sites would have many believe that the pandemic era is nearly over, but impacts of it will be felt by millions long after.
One of those impacts is the psychological trauma many have endured because of isolation from their friends, a lack of job security, or losing a loved one.
The Latino community has faced numerous hills as a result of the world stopping last year, but one challenge that grew steeper was addressing mental health.
Data from 2019 shows that about 34% of Hispanic/Latinx adults with mental illness receive treatment each year compared to the U.S. average of 45%. The pandemic only exacerbated the issue along with countless others.
But what systemic socioeconomic factors have led to these numbers and why has COVID-19 made it worse?
According to the Center for Economic Policy and Research, Hispanics make up 16.3% of all frontline workers. A recent report by UnidosUS estimates that 15.7% of Hispanics in America live in poverty, and this is double the rate of their white counterparts.
Both of these figures are important to understand why they are overly-represented in statistics relating to the virus.
“Hispanics and Latinos are 1.7 times more likely to contract COVID-19 than their non-Hispanic white counterparts, as well as 4.1 times more likely to be hospitalized from COVID-19 and 2.8 times more likely to die from COVID-19,” the Center for Disease Control (CDC) found.
The work Hispanics do is essential for ensuring that the country can recover from the economic downfall and since many of them are living paycheck to paycheck, they skip out the chance to get tested for coronavirus even if they have symptoms.
They fear being laid off for missing work to get tested, or that a positive result will lead to the same outcome.
The UnidosUS report also states that Latinos are the least likely to have paid sick days available.
Regardless of having paid sick days, another reality makes contracting COVID-19 even more frightening.
Hispanics represent the highest rate of individuals lacking health coverage compared to any major racial or ethnic group, with nearly 20% being uninsured according to statistics compiled by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Lack of coverage is a catalyst for Latinos not addressing mental health during the pandemic.
If an uninsured person is hospitalized for the virus, their family will stress about the medical bills. But if they lack coverage themselves, they have professional counsel to seek.
Pew Research found that Latinos are the youngest of the major racial or ethnic groups. This means that many youth that witness a loved one suffer from coronavirus or die from it will go through some of the most critical years of their development without psychological guidance to assist with the healing process.
Many Latino households have a significant part of their family that lives in Latin America, and this presents another set of unique challenges.
Some immigrants do not simply better their own situation, but also send money back home to provide for their family. If many lost their jobs because of pandemic or are simply in a tighter financial state, they will struggle to aid their families.
Honduras’ economy was heavily dependent on remittances from the U.S. and in 2019, they made up over 21% of the Central American country’s gross domestic product (GDP).
Latin America is also a less developed part of the world compared to the U.S. and is not able to offer similar social safety nets. This makes lockdowns, quarantining and other safety precautions nearly impossible for these countries to enforce.
A by-product of this has made the region one of the worst-hit by the pandemic.
Data from the Coronavirus Resource Center at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine shows that Brazil and Peru have higher rates of deaths to the virus per 100,000 residents than the U.S., and Mexico is right behind its northern neighbor.
Latinos in the U.S. may also have to worry about their families back home contracting the virus and not being able to send them money. This too, eats away at their mental health.
For Hispanics who can visit a mental health professional, they also often find trouble relating to the person that is giving them counseling.
The American Psychological Association (APA) released numbers on the diversity of their workforce that shows an underrepresentation of people of color in the field. Hispanics made up 5% of psychologists in 2015.
Language barriers are also a common thing to come across, and the APA even acknowledges that Spanish-speaking professionals are in high-demand since only 5.5% of psychologists in the U.S. can offer their services in the language.
The logical solution would be to promote the field more to Latino youth, but it will not be a quick process. To be a licensed psychologist, students need to obtain a doctoral degree after college, which could take up to 10 years.