Barriers to Mental Health Care

Among the Hispanic and LatinX Communities in South Florida

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According to the article featured in NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Health) Hispanic/Latinx communities show similar vulnerability to mental illness as the general population, but they face disparities in both access to and quality of treatment. More than half of Hispanic young adults ages 18-25 with serious mental illness may not receive treatment. This inequality puts these communities at a higher risk for more severe and persistent forms of mental health conditions, because without treatment, mental health conditions often worsen.

Barriers To Mental Health Care

35.1% of Hispanic/Latinx adults with mental illness receive treatment each year compared to the U.S. average of 46.2%. This is due to many unique barriers these populations face. We are going to discuss on two of these barriers that seem to be the most affecting to the subject matter "Mental Help and Mental Health".

  • Language Barriers
  • Stigma
  • Poverty and Less Health Insurance Coverage
  • Lack of Cultural Competence
  • Legal Status
  • Acculturation

Language Barriers

Language barriers can make communicating with providers difficult, or even impossible, particularly when a person is seeking counseling for sensitive or uniquely personal issues. These topics can be difficult for anyone to put into words, but it is especially difficult for those who may not speak the same language as a potential provider.

Although Spanish is the official language in most of Latin America, some Latino/Latinas may speak other languages or dialects, such as Quechua, Nahuatl or Portuguese. Additionally, Latinx families may be bilingual or mixed-language families; therefore it is helpful for providers to ask what the patient and families’ preferred language is before starting an evaluation and to use interpreters when necessary.

Stigma "El Cuento" or "Los Locos"

People in the Hispanic/Latinx community can be very private and may not want to publicly talk about challenges at home or in their lives. This can continue the cycle of stigma about mental health within the community, as talking about it can be viewed as taboo. Many in the Latinx community are familiar with the phrase “la ropa sucia se lava en casa” (similar to “don’t wash your dirty laundry in public”). Some people do not seek treatment for mental illness out of fear of being labeled as “locos” (crazy) or bringing shame and unwanted attention to their families. Additionally, faith communities may be a source of distress if they are not well informed and do not know how to support families dealing with mental health conditions.

Stigma within the Hispanic/Latinx community can also lead to a lack of information as individuals may not recognize the symptoms of mental health conditions or know where to seek help. In turn, this may cause individuals to not seek treatment.

When mental health is not commonly or openly talked about, people seeking treatment may have limited knowledge and comfort with the different types of therapy and psychiatric medications available. Providers should use a compassionate and collaborative approach to engage individuals in treatment planning. Incorporating education, symptom monitoring and engagement with community resources can be important ways to support a person’s decision to start therapy or psychiatric medication.

Regis House counts with qualified counselors in our staff that are ready to listen, help, and advise you and your family. For more information about our programs contact us at: [email protected]