Familia, we need to talk about mental health.
There’s been too much shame and fear around talking about our feelings and our fears. We don’t always have to be fuerte.
The pandemic only served to create more anxiety and stress for Latinos and their families, whether they faced isolation, or great risk as essential workers.
There is a disturbing trend when it comes to suicide in the Latino community, and it pre-dates the pandemic.
Between 2010 and 2020, the suicide rate among Latino adults increased by more than 70% among those ages 20 to 64, found a study published this August in the Journal of Community Health. At the same time, the Latino population in the United States only grew by about 25%.
Suicides for Latinos in 2010 were the 7th leading cause of death but by 2020 they were the 5th leading cause of death. The total number of suicides in 2020 for those ages 20 through 64 years was 34,023 of which 3,681 (11%) were Latino, the study found.
Access to mental health services are needed. But it is even more challenging for the 1 in 4 Latinos who don’t have health insurance.
One study of Latino immigrants found the primary barriers to mental health services were cost (59%), lack of health insurance (35%), and language (31%).
This demonstrates that we need more Latino mental health workers. Around 5% of psychologists identified as Latino in 2015, according to the American Psychological Association.
An estimated 33% of Latino adults with mental illness receive treatment each year compared to the U.S. average of 43%, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness California.
Many Latinos do not seek treatment because they don’t recognize the signs and symptoms of mental health conditions or know where to find help, the alliance found. Others do not seek treatment for fear of being labeled as “locos,” or crazy.
A policy brief by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research found that around half (45%) of all Latinx adults who needed mental health services experienced unmet need for mental health care. Additionally, 6 out of 10 (61%) of all Latinx adults with serious or moderate psychological distress said they had unmet need for mental health care.
There are some ways to get help.
Therapy for Latinx was created by Brandie Carlos after losing a close friend to suicide.
“After he passed away I questioned myself, what could I have done differently? What resources were available that he didn’t know about? I spent the following months feeling depressed, mourning, and continue to grieve the loss of someone who I thought was always going to be there,” wrote Carlos, born and raised in East Los Angeles.
“To my surprise, I Googled and looked around but found no resources specifically for the Latinx community. That was when the idea clicked. As I began building the site, I decided to have a therapist directory, people sharing stories or experiences, and resources for people who want to become a licensed mental health practitioner.”
SanaMente is a mental health movement in California providing information in Spanish. NAMI also has published a mental health booklet in Spanish.
The California Department of Mental Health received more than $14 million in 2021-22 in Mental Health Services Act Funds. But we need more attention and funding for our mental health.
It’s time to let go of the stigmas and shame around talking about mental health and provide more mental health services for the community.