The cultural “machismo” stereotype is upheld in many Latino households, forming a stigma around therapy and seeking help, which is often associated with weakness. When this practice is passed from one generation to the next, it becomes a difficult cycle to break. According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, annually, 33% of Latinos suffering from a mental illness seek treatment, compared to the U.S. average of 43%. Gaithri Fernando is a psychology professor at California State University, Los Angeles, who recognizes how difficult having these conversations can be. “I hear many parents say, ‘If only [my kids] knew what I went through,’ and they don’t want to disclose those personal stories because of the trauma and they don’t want to burden their children,” he said.
While Mental Health Awareness Month was observed last month in May, the issue is often front-and-center for many Latinos and family members who support them in their mental health journey to recovery.
Charlene Dimas-Peinado, is the President and CEO of Wellnest, a $32 million nationally recognized trauma informed behavioral health and housing organization in Los Angeles. She is the first Latina President & CEO of Wellnest since its founding in 1924.
The criminal justice system in the United States is in dire need of reform – for many reasons – but mental health remains among the top. Understanding the relationship between mental health and the criminal justice system is key to driving equitable policy practices that can improve health outcomes and reduce inequities faced by so many. Prisons and jails in the United States incarcerate a disproportionate number of people, including Latinos and Black people, with a current or past mental health problem. Many facilities are not equipped to treat these conditions.
Between 2010 and 2020, the suicide rate among Latino adults increased by more than 70%, found a study published this August in the Journal of Community Health.
You don’t need to have serious problems to go to therapy. This is a misconception. If a problem may seem small to others, but it has an impact on your daily life, that is a big enough reason (and the only reason you need) to go to therapy.