Minority Mental Health
Month: Focusing On Issues Affecting Hispanics
By Hope Gillete VOXXI News
July 10, 2012
July is National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month,
an opportunity to learn more about issues affecting minorities
in the United States such as depression, obsessive compulsive
disorder and bipolar disorder, among others. When treatment is sought, research
indicates U.S born Hispanics are more likely to seek mental health assistance
from clergy or general health providers rather than specialists.
The Centers for Disease Control
(CDC) report 25 percent of adults in the U.S. have a form of
mental illness , with many of those illnesses the result of other
medical issues like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or obesity. Of the people
living with mental illness, the majority does not seek help, and people from
minority demographics are even less likely to do so. The
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI),
reports Hispanics and African-Americans receive limited mental health care than
do non-Hispanic whites, and health care disparities are often
the result of a cultural stigma surrounding mental health and the need for
professional intervention. Many Latinos,
Acosta , executive director of the National Resource Center for Hispanic
Mental Health, who have both physical and mental healthcare needs do not
access all of the resources available to them because of stigma, lack of
knowledge, and oftentimes our cultural beliefs and attitudes, such as
states Hispanics face many mental health struggles including:
- Latinos are a high-risk group for depression, substance
abuse and anxiety.
- Latinas (46 percent) are more likely than males (19
percent) to suffer from depression.
- Suicide attempt rates for Latinas in 1997 was 14.9
percent compared to white females at 10.3 percent.
- U.S. born and long-term resident Latinos have higher
rates of mental illness than do immigrants.
When treatment is sought, research indicates U.S
born Hispanics are more likely to seek mental health assistance from
clergy or general health providers rather than specialists, with as a few as
one in 11 individuals suffering from a mental health condition seeking
specialty care. Among Hispanic immigrants , only one in 20
suffering from a mental health issue seeks care from a specialist. When
Latinos think of mental illness, they just think one thing: loco
, said to
Clara Morato. [Latinos] don't want to be labeled, and they don't
want to be labeled as the family with a relative who's crazy.
Language barriers have been indicated as
a serious hurdle when it comes to mental health treatment, with the Census
Bureau indicating one in four Latino households are linguistically
isolated. Latinos don't want to be labeled, and they don't want to be
labeled as the family with a relative who's crazy. Poverty
contributes as well, with studies showing individuals in poverty are 2 to 3
times more likely to have a mental disease than individuals of a higher
economic standing. Those in poverty are also less likely to have health
insurance , an important tool when it comes to making a decision
regarding specialist care. If we are able to help them get their Social
Security disability benefits, we can then encourage them to seek primary and
preventive care, rather than going to the emergency room, Acosta said.
We save the public money, and everyone benefits.
With Latinos and other minorities disproportionately
affected by mental health issues, education will play an important role
in reducing the disparities seen. These are important social
safety nets in place for those in need, and we should do a better job of
educating people about eligibility so they know their rights, said
Acosta. Resources available to minorities include expanded medical
coverage through Medicare and Medicaid, initiatives by the Office of
Minority Health, Spanish-language information pamphlets in medical facilities,
and incentives for Hispanic doctors to set up facilities in Latino communities.
The Affordable Care Act is expected to also offer a relief through their
funding of new community centers in Hispanic neighborhoods as well as providing
health insurance to millions of Hispanics, which would allow them to seek
mental health care at no cost.