IT’S TIME TO TALK ABOUT IT…
By: Sophia Cortes-Moreno
July is minority mental health month and the conversations around mental health should start now! Latinos/Latinx folks make up 18.3% of the population and in 2019, over 16% of those reported experiencing symptoms of a mental illness (US Census Bureau, 2019). As a Latina, I am aware first-hand of the stigma against mental illness and treatment in our communities. Maybe your tía and abuela went to church every Sunday and reminded the family that prayer heals depression. Maybe your mamá believes that your varying symptoms may be caused by your lack of faith in God or perhaps you are not praying enough. Our Latino/Latinx community has led us to believe that any mention of personal problems is you “airing dirty laundry” and it is an embarrassment to the family. If you have heard all this before, it is time to take a stand, and fight back. It is time to begin taking care of our Latino/Latinx community members, and that starts with their mental health.
We must begin by educating our family members- tia’s, abuelas, mama, and papá. Mental health challenges are real and need to be addressed. Poor communication with health care providers can also be an issue with our community and one reason why help is not sought. Barriers to accessing treatment can include having no health insurance or having no transportation to get to an appointment. Perhaps you feel your depression more in your body and only describe the physical sensations versus disclosing the emotional aspects of your concerns. There is help and we must begin talking about what help is available. Whether you have limited funds or no funds; Whether you have access to a car or no access to a car; Whether you believe in God and attend church weekly or are atheist – your mental health matters and you should begin talking about it. If we continue to allow the stigma to stop us from seeking treatment, we will continue seeing 56.8% of young adults between 18-25 with serious mental illnesses NOT receive treatment (SAMHSA, 2018). There are resources and places where the underinsured or the uninsured can still access mental health treatment. The conversations around “how are you feeling” starts with us. If you are having a bad day, talk about it. If you are feeling sad, talk about it. If you are happy, talk about it. If you feel you need professional help, talk about it. Breaking the stigma begins with starting new traditions, forging new paths, and making our own way related to how we care for our health. Talking to others who could possibly understand your struggle is a good second step. Reach out to those who have always been supportive of you. Reading books, seeking out other Latino/Latinx folks struggling with their mental health can also be empowering. If we see one person going against their community and family wishes to seek help and to feel better – my hope is that will inspire you to do the same.
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SAMHSA. 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH): Hispanics, Latino, or Spanish Origin or Descent. https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/reports/rpt23249/4_Hispanic_2020_01_14_508.pdf
US Census Bureau. (2019). Hispanic Heritage Month 2019. https://www.census.gov/newsroom/facts-for-features/2019/hispanic-heritage-month.html