How to Discuss Your Mental Health with Family Members Who Don’t Get It

latina mental health 433Let me know if any of these sound familiar: Boys don’t cry. We don’t air family business. You have to be strong. Turn to God.

These refrains (all of which I’ve heard at least once, some in the last month) are just some of the responses that people dealing with mental health challenges in Latino communities have come to know well.

Going to therapy or struggling with mental illness can be viewed as a sign of weakness or that you’re “crazy.” Combine this with unequal access to mental health services and quality health insurance, and it’s no wonder that Latinos, who are just as likely to suffer from a mental illness as whites, are half as likely to seek treatment.

When Adriana Alejandre, a therapist in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles, started her practice in 2017, she tried to find accessible information for her predominantly Latino patients — the kind of resources that would apply directly to their lives. “I was super frustrated, because I couldn’t find any resources for my clients that were relevant, that were modern, that weren’t so much clinical jargon,” she said.

So last year, she started a podcast to get the word out and help Latino patients see therapists as “more relatable.” Immediately she received dozens of responses asking for more information and, crucially, Spanish-language content. Alejandre started recording the episodes in Spanish as well as English. Now, Latinx Therapy is a full-fledged platform with a directory of therapists and free screening tests for depression, eating disorders and other common mental illnesses.

At speaking engagements, Alejandre said, people still tell her things like “I’m not crazy,” or “That stuff is not for us, for our family. Our problems, we solve it ourselves.” She explained that Latino communities tend to be collectivist, meaning that we value the group over the individual, sometimes to personal detriment. In other words, if family members are resistant to therapy or talking about mental health struggles, “breaking that is tough,” Alejandre said. “The downfall is that people suffer in silence.”

Excerpted from “How to Discuss Your Mental Health With Family Members Who Don’t Get It” in The New York Times online. Read the full story.

Source: The New York Times | How to Discuss Your Mental Health With Family Members Who Don’t Get It, | © 2019 The New York Times Company

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