Understanding Mental Illness in the Latinx Community
Mental Illness is often misunderstood and stigmatized, especially in the Latinx community. The National Alliance of Mental Illness wants to change that.
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October 4-10 is Mental Illness Awareness Week, a time for people across the country to learn more about mental illness.
Among Latinos, common mental health disorders include generalized anxiety disorder, major depression, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and alcoholism, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA).
Each year millions of Americans face the reality of living with a mental health condition, according to the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI). This means that even if you are not experiencing a mental health condition, a loved one or coworker may be.
Nevertheless, stigma and misunderstanding are widespread. As an organization, NAMI said: “Each year, we educate the public, fight stigma and provide support.”
In the Latinx community, the saying, "la ropa sucia se lava en casa” (don’t air your dirty clothes in public) represents the deep-rooted idiosyncratic condition that personal problems are solved in whispers, within the home.
According to NAMI, this habit can lead to a lack of information about mental health and make it taboo.
In an op-ed for the Huffington Post, Bianca Silva described that mental illnesses in her community are not always viewed as real and that they are often perceived as being able to be “prayed away.”
For Silva, it took her years to let go of the stigma of mental illness and of feeling “crazy.” She wants others in the Latinx community to know that it’s ok to seek professional help and to go on medication if they need to.
Priscilla Blossom shared a similar sentiment in her article: “It’s more Important than ever to break the stigma around Latinx health,” which discussed many reasons why other Latinos do not get help, including language barriers and cost barriers. She was told as a teenager to merely put her faith in God whenever she asked for therapy.
These barriers make it difficult for the Latinx community to seek the help it needs.
According to ADAA, only one in five Latinos with symptoms of a psychological disorder will talk with a doctor.
Additionally, only 33% of Latinos with mental illness will get treatment compared to the national average of 43%, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association.
A study published by the Journal of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association in 2008 found that Hispanic women in the United States experience depression almost two times the rate of Hispanic males and are at higher risk for depression than White or African-American women.
There is light at the end of the tunnel. On October 8, NAMI will conduct a National Depresssion Screening Day so that more people can know if they have this mental illness and get help for it.
Similarly, organizations like Hispanic Community Counseling Services provide mental health services, in both English and Spanish, to adults and children. As an organization, their “main focus is the provision of culturally appropriate and recovery-oriented mental health services to the community of N. Philadelphia.”
Organizations like this one can help break the stigma of mental health and break down access barriers for Latinos.