Latin@ and Mental Health

Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being, which affects our daily life in a variety of different ways. A healthy mental state affects how people interact with other individuals, form relationships, handle stressful situations, and be able to perform daily tasks without much difficulty. However, when there is a disruption or compromise of an individual’s state of being, problems begin to arise.sadgirl

Over the past couple of years there has been an increase of public awareness of what mental health is, the stigmas present, and the symptoms of a mental health illness. The National Alliance of Mental Illness found that  approximately 1 in 5 adults in the United States (43.7 million) experiences a mental illness in a given year.

Programs have slowly popped up in multiple ways: from city-run campaigns to student-created clubs in school to increase awareness. According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness, about about 50.6% of children aged  8-15 received mental health services in a past year. The hope of this is to allow individuals that might be struggling in their daily life to reach out for help without being stigmatized by their peers.

Mental Illness and the Latino Community

Having a mental health illness is a serious issue and needs treatment so the individual can continue to perform at their normal capacity. In the Latino Community, symptoms of a mental health illness are usually dismissed or are written off as an attempt for attention, and mental health illnesses are heavily stigmatized. This combination usually prevents the individual from receiving help.

Celeste Nevarez, who earned her Masters of Counseling Psychology from Arizona State, is a licensed psychiatrist who works at the Family Service of El Paso. A native of El Paso, she decided to return to her city after graduation to help her community; she now works at a non-profit organization that offers counseling regardless of ability to pay and is a professor at El Paso Community College. Passionate about her work, she is determined to improve the mental health scene of the city.

Nevarez states that having a mental health illness can be due to a combination of genetics, psychology, and the social environment of the individual. Lacking a family history of mental health illness does not mean that the person is immune, mental health knows “no gender, race, culture, [or] religion.” Mental health illnesses do not discriminate, everyone is vulnerable. According to Nevarez, the best thing for someone that is suffering from a mental illness is to seek professional help if possible- especially if his/her case becomes dangerous; however, sometimes having support from a peer might help.

However, this might sometimes be hard to come by. Nevarez believes that the Latino Community is proud and tough, and asking for help to treat a mental health illness signals that the person is weak and that something is wrong with them. She thinks that the stigma might come from a combination of culture, religion, stereotypes of “crazy” people, and shame placed on the individual and on the family. Nevarez often hears similar lines to “‘it is just a faze,’ ‘nothing is wrong with you,’ and ‘I need help.’ ‘But you’re not crazy,’” when someone attempts to reach out for help.

Treatment of a Mental Illness

By prolonging treatment the individual might feel isolated if no support is given and that is one of the worst things to happen. Nevarez argues that the lack of treatment could possibly make the mental health illness might take a turn for the worst. Although there has been improvement of slowly breaking down the stigma and more people reaching out for help, Nevarez believes that there is still a long way to go.

With the continuation of breaking down stigmas and making mental health services easier to access, those in the Latino community will be able to reach the help that they need. Those that are asking for help should not be ignored or laughed at, but understood and supported through their struggles.

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