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National Hispanic Heritage Month

Hispanic Heritage Month gives us an opportunity to celebrate the strengths and values that are seen within our community. Strong family ties, pride for our countries, and our vibrant history are all aspects of our Hispanic heritage we should celebrate! However, this month also gives of a chance to highlight any areas where we can improve as a group.

Reducing the negative stigma associated with mental health issues has always been a professional and personal goal of mine. Being a part of the Hispanic community, I have previously been aware that stigma in this community is a particularly strong force that prevents individuals from receiving care. Lack of education, misconceptions and internalized ideas about mental illness has led to many of us suffering in silence.

Additionally, unique mental health challenges exist specifically in the Hispanic community. In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month and in an effort to bring awareness to the mental health crisis in Latinx communities, I began to research this community under the context of mental health. Through my research, I realized that our mental health challenges are more alarming than I thought.

A recent survey by the SAMHSA found that mental health issues are increasing for Hispanic people ages 12-48. Most of these individuals (67%) will not reach out to a mental health provider. Furthermore, specific societal issues have been shown to contribute negatively to the mental well-being of Hispanics. Notably, research has shown that immigration and acculturation contribute to the rates of mental distress in Latinx communities.

Other societal factors, such as generational beliefs regarding shame about illness, lack of insurance, and certain religious beliefs, serve as barriers to mental health care for Hispanics. To make matters worse, those individuals who do seek help are often met with communication barriers, as there is a shortage of bilingual mental health care providers; this can lead to a lack of effective treatment for Hispanics. The American Psychiatric Association found that Hispanics use antidepressants 50% less than their white counterparts. This is alarming because the data suggests that there are elevated levels of depression for Hispanics when these two groups are compared. Similarly, 90% of Hispanic individuals with substance use disorder will not receive treatment.

Hispanic Heritage Month gives us an opportunity to celebrate the strengths and values that are seen within our community. Strong family ties, pride for our countries, and our vibrant history are all aspects of our Hispanic heritage we should celebrate! However, this month also gives of a chance to highlight any areas where we can improve as a group. Fortunately, we can all be a part of the solution! Let’s have open conversations about mental health, do our part to educate ourselves and future generations on mental health, and encourage others to seek treatment if needed. The biggest barrier is stigma, and we can all do our part to normalize mental health disorders.

As I stated before, reducing stigma around mental health is important to me. Working as a Community Education Coordinator at Gateway to Hope allows me to do this. This role also allows me to connect with my Hispanic community about mental health as well. All of our materials and trainings are offered in Spanish and I am always excited to work with Spanish-speaking organizations. If you are interested in receiving training for you or your organization in either English or Spanish, please reach out (cvargas@hopeandhealingcenter.org).

Written by

Carolina Vargas joined the Hope and Healing Center and Institute in June of 2021. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Texas Tech University and is currently earning a MA in Marriage and Family Therapy. In her spare time she enjoys reading, traveling, and going to the movies.