Mental Health Challenges and Support: Latinx Communities

Common mental health conditions among Latinx are generalized anxiety disorder, major depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and excessive use of alcohol and drugs. Additionally, suicide is a concern for Latinx youth. An estimated 33% of Latinx adults with mental illness receive treatment each year compared to the U.S. average of 43%.  Without treatment, certain mental health conditions can worsen and become disabling.

Barriers to Mental Health Care for Latino Communities


While Latinx communities show similar susceptibility to mental illness as the general population, unfortunately, we experience disparities in access to treatment and in the quality of treatment we receive.


Overall, the Latinx community does not talk about mental health issues.  Many Latinxs do not seek treatment because they don’t recognize the signs and symptoms of mental health conditions or know where to find help. Others do not seek treatment for fear of being labeled as “locos” (crazy) or as having a mental health condition because this may cause shame.

Privacy Concerns

Many of us know el dicho “la ropa sucia se lava en casa” (similar to “don’t air your dirty laundry in public”). Many Latinx communities tend to be very private and often do not want to talk in public about challenges at home. Seeking mental health treatment doesn’t mean you will lose your privacy. Your diagnosis, treatment plan and discussions with your mental health providers are confidential. They cannot share this information with others without your permission. Furthermore, mental health providers are professionals that understand what you are going through. They will listen without judgment.

Language Barriers

If you or your loved one that needs help does not speak English, or does not speak it well, you have the right to receive language-access services at institutions that receive funding from the federal government. You have the right to request a trained interpreter and to receive forms and information in Spanish. Find out more about the need for more culturally competent therapists.

Lack Of Health Insurance

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, in 2017, 19% of people identifying as Hispanic had no form of health insurance. The Affordable Care Act is making it easier and more affordable to get insured.

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Cultural differences may lead doctors to misdiagnose Latinos. For instance, Latinos may describe the symptoms of depression as “nervios” (nervousness), tiredness or a physical ailment. These symptoms are consistent with depression, but doctors who are not aware of how culture influences mental health may not recognize that these could be signs of depression.

Legal Status

For immigrants who arrive without documentation, the fear of deportation can prevent them from seeking help.  If you do not have legal documentation, seek out clinics and resources that care for all members of the community. Latino-based organizations often provide services regardless of legal status.

Natural Medicine And Home Remedies

Some Latinos may prefer traditional healers and home remedies to deal with health-related issues. Mental health may not be an exception. However, we encourage you to seek a mental health professional or a primary care doctor. Ask your doctor to make these healing practices part of your treatment plan. Mental health professionals have experience and knowledge of effective types of treatments and what may work for you. You may use both approaches in your road to recovery.

Faith And Spirituality

Faith and spirituality can provide support and help you deal with a mental health condition. If spirituality is important to you, talk to your doctors about how important faith is to you. Reach out to your spiritual leaders and faith community. They might be able to provide help and support during the difficult times caused by mental health conditions. At the same time, unfortunately, sometimes faith communities can be a source of additional distress if they are not well informed and do not know how to support families dealing with these conditions.

Excerpted from “Mental Health Challenges and Support: Latinx Communities” from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Read the full article online for more details and additional NAMI resources.

Source: NAMI | Mental Health Challenges and Support: Latinx Communities, | ©2020 NAMI California

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