MENTAL HEALTH IN THE HISPANIC COMMUNITY
BY CYNTHIA GACHUPIN
Growing up in a traditional Hispanic home, where family´s wellbeing is a priority, I was taught only one thing about mental illness: It is something that should not be shared outside of the family. There is a great amount of stigma and discrimination against mental illness within the Latino culture. Some Latinos view mental illness as a sign of weakness or have a fear of being labeled crazy. This often leads to a hesitation in seeking help.
Here is what the data tells us about mental health in the Latino population:
• Latinos have a greater risk of developing more chronic and persistent forms of depression, substance abuse and anxiety.
• In 2011, suicide attempts for high school-aged Latino girls were 70% higher than white girls of the same age group.
• According to a 2001 U.S. Surgeon General report, only 10% of Latinos with symptoms of a mental health condition contacted a mental health specialist.
• The 2012 U.S. Census found that 29% of the Hispanic population was not covered by health insurance in comparison to 10.4% of the non-Hispanic white population, making Latinos the largest racial or ethnic group to lack health insurance.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Hispanics will make up 30% of the population by 2050. As our population increases, the need for mental health services will grow. Without treatment certain mental health illnesses can worsen and put a person at a higher risk of more persistent or severe conditions. This is why it’s important to seek treatment as soon as possible.
NAMI Anchorage (National Alliance on Mental Illness) is currently working towards bringing a bilingual presentation to help increase mental health awareness in the Anchorage Latino community. “Compartiendo Esperanza” is a presentation during which two presenters will give an overview of mental health problems as well as treatment and recovery from the perspective of individuals who have experienced these illnesses.
Our hope is to bring resources and support to individuals and families throughout Anchorage. Destigmatizing mental health illness will encourage many in our community to seek treatment; changing people’s lives for the better.
For more information on NAMI’s programs, please call 907-272-0227.