HISPANIC HERITAGE AND BEHAVIORAL HEALTH
• September 2020 •
From Juan Navarro, Executive Director
Los Angeles Centers for Alcohol and Drug Abuse
Hispanic Heritage and Behavioral Health
Did you know that Hispanic Heritage Month — September 15th through October 15th — has been celebrated for the past 52 years? In those five decades, America’s Latino population has grown from 9 million to over 60 million people. Yet, in the area of behavioral health we are falling behind; another systemic failure.
- Only 36% of Latinos with depression receive mental health care compared to 60% of non-Hispanic Whites
- Latinos are less likely than non-Latino whites to take antidepressants
- Latina adolescents attempt suicide more often than any other group of female teenagers nationwide
- Latinos are three times more likely than whites to report alcohol dependence
- Latinos, especially those with higher levels of alcohol dependence, underutilized treatment services as compared to whites
- Lack of Spanish-speaking treatment staff is an important barrier to treatment
An American Psychological Association survey reported that only 5.5% of U.S. psychologists are able to administer behavioral health services in Spanish, and only 45% of psychologists said they were “quite or extremely knowledgeable” about working with Latino patients. This is an important disparity because Latino Americans face unique behavioral health issues compared to the country’s population at large. Acculturation into the larger American culture is increasing risk for substance use disorders among Latino youth. Cultural stigma prevents treatment utilization. And we are at higher risk for severe mental health problems, in part because of the poor quality of treatment Latinos tend to receive.
L.A. CADA is working to even the score with a comprehensive, culturally meaningful continuum of care. For Latinos, this means that treatment is nested in important cultural values: familismo (family); confianza (trust); personalismo (preference for personal relationships); respeto (respect for Latino values and roles) and; dignidad (personal dignity). We’re proud to employ a large proportion of bilingual staff that represent the cultures of our clients. Because equity in behavioral healthcare is a human right.
Check the statistics: Latino Behavioral Health
“Why didn’t I go for rehab before? Easy. Because I didn’t want to be called crazy. My neighborhood and my family are old school. We don’t talk about mental problems. It’s all about ‘man-up’ and not being ‘weak’. My problems got worse with drinking, but my family understands alcohol. You have a good time; you sometimes get out of control. That is acceptable. But secretly, I was really scared. Even without alcohol I was out of control – one day up and one day down in the dumps wanting to die. Where I live, that’s ‘loco’, baby. Not good. I didn’t want to embarrass my girlfriend, my kid, my parents so I tried to hide behind the alcohol. When I ended up in jail, they said I could get treatment. It’s where I learned about bipolar disorder, which I have. Now, with the meds and the counseling, it has really helped me. The program gave counseling to my family in Spanish, so they could support me better. For me, I think talking about this openly is the most healing thing to do. I’m trying to do that so I can break the silence. Because Latinos need to talk about mental health.”
Are you recovering? Do you know someone in recovery? Or maybe you just want to understand more about behavioral health disorders? We invite you to join L.A. CADA in celebrating National Recovery Month. Each September, the event works to educate Americans about substance use treatment and mental health services that can help people with behavioral health disorders to live healthy and rewarding lives. Now in its 31st year, Recovery Month celebrates the gains made by those living in recovery.
Check out our calendar for: ways to participate
SPOTLIGHT – THE EVIDENCE IS IN:
Best Practices in Working with Latino Patients
Cultural stigma remains a barrier to behavioral health treatment utilization for Latinos. To better serve the community, L.A. CADA uses practices endorsed by Dr. Diana Lorenzo of the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio for working with Latino patients:
Remove the Language Barrier. Employ Spanish-speaking treatment and support staff who can accurately interpret cultural nuances and jargon.
Collaborate with Primary Care. Latinos with a mental health concern are twice as likely to consult a medical doctor (and present with physical complaints) rather than go to a mental health provider. Working with health clinics is vital to reaching this population.
Encourage Family Involvement. Support provided by a Latino patient’s strong family network can help alleviate the stigma of a mental disorder and embolden patients to continue with treatment.
Deliver Culturally Competent Treatment. Understand and incorporate culturally meaningful elements (family, respect, dignity, and trust) in outreach and treatment interventions. Understand cultural-bound syndromes such as “Ataque de Nervios”, “Cólera”, and “Mal de Ojo”.
Provide Education about the Roots of Mental Illness. Knowing the biological underpinnings of mental health disorders is enlightening to many Latinos. An understanding of brain chemicals that play a primary allows them to view the diseases differently.
Watch: Latinos Talk Mental Health