RAISING AWARENESS IN THE LATINO COMMUNITY
Misunderstanding about Mental Health:
Majority of the time, mental health issues are not talked about in the Latino community. Many Latinos do not seek treatment because they cannot detect the symptoms of mental disorders and are unaware about where and how to seek help. With limited information about mental disorders, most Latinos don't seek treatment because they believe they will be seen as "locos" (crazy) or are afraid of being shamed if they expose their mental disorder.
Most Latinos keep their life very private and do not often bring up hardships that happen at home. They fear that if they expose their issues to others, people will judge and label the family.
Communication with healthcare professionals can be exceedingly difficult due to language barriers. Even though most doctors do speak Spanish, especially in parts where the Latino population is high, they often lack knowledge over potential cultural implications that could be taking place. Keep in mind, if you or a loved one do not speak English you have the right to get language-access services at institutions that receive government funding. You also have the right to request a trained translator and get forms and information in Spanish.
No Health Insurance:
The Latino community is one-third uninsured. Most of the Latino population have jobs that have low-wages or are self-employed; these often include the Latinos that do not have health insurance.
Culture can cause doctors to give a misdiagnosis. For example, the symptoms of depression are often correlated with nervousness, tiredness, or a physical ailment. These are major symptoms of depression, but doctors who have a lack of awareness may not be able to recognize that these symptoms could indicate depression.
Often times, immigrants arrive without documentation and the fear of getting deported can prevent them from getting help. Although millions of children of undocumented, immigrant parents can seek health care under the AFFORDABLE CARE act. If you do not have documentation, many Latino organizations will provide services regardless of legal status.
Majority of Latinos are Roman Catholic and value a close, affectionate relationship with God. This close connection can help the individual beat the eating disorder and provide strength. Spirituality and the church community can serve in helping the individual through obstacles. However, even though religion can help during the recovery process, it can also cause a negative impact. Fatalism is a common belief that all events are predetermined and unavoidable which can make recovery a more passive process. Individuals also fear the possibility of persecution due to religion and will start to believe their God will distance and become intolerant. In addition, the individual may feel a lack of support or shame from their religious community.
Role of Food:
In the Latino community, meal times are more than just eating. It is a social gathering with a wide variety of food. Portions are often large and eating excessively is seen as a norm rather than binge eating. As one Mexican-American women said, "food is very scared, you don't waste it, it's more than just food. It's like food is love for your family. Like the more my grandma loves me, the more she feeds me...My grandma is not going to go and hug me, she's going to feed me"
According to Knapp et al, 2009, traditional gender roles in the Latino culture are more prominent and are often reflected in the home or street. This shows that men are allowed to leave home for work, events, or gatherings and the women should remain in the house to raise the children, cook, or do chores. As a result, women have their own set of commandments that place expectations on women. Below are some examples that can prevent a Latina seeking treatment:
-Don't put your needs first
-Don't ask for help
-Don't discuss your personal problems outside the house
HOW TO HELP:
The most effective way to help the Latino community and its lack of awareness towards mental illness, is by changing the publics' understanding over the issues. A mental disorder is a serious disease that requires medical help, and it should be seen that way in every culutre. It is crucial that Latinos know to not feel ashamed or fear judgement for seeking treatment for their mental illness. Cultural acknowledgment will not happen easily, it will take an immense amount of effort and time from both the medical side and the public. The most effective way cultural acknowledgment can be spread is through education. This is the first step to improving the mental health in the Latino community. While prevention is the most successful way in treating eating disorders and depression, education is key in spreading prevention.