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Mental Health Stigma in the Latino Community

Latin celebrations with confetti and mine umbrellas

Mental health stigma is one of the largest barriers to improving global mental wellness. The many misconceptions, prejudices, and stereotypes surrounding mental illness keep many people from seeking professional treatment. In Latin American cultures, the stigma may be even more prevalent. Stigma, in particular, refers to a set of negative and often inaccurate and unfair beliefs that society has associated with certain circumstances, qualities, or groups of people. Today, our residential mental health program is shedding some light on mental health stigma in the Latino community and how we can help.  

Latino Mental Health Statistics

For the Latino/Hispanic community, mental health and mental illness are often stigmatized and taboo topics, leaving many of this community to suffer in silence. This silence compounds the range of experiences that may contribute to mental health problems, including immigration, acculturation, trauma, and generational conflicts. What’s more, the Latino community faces unique institutional and systemic barriers that may further impede their access to mental health care.  

Below are some staggering statistics about mental health in Latino communities to help paint the picture more clearly.  

  • Older adults and youth in the Latino/Hispanic community are more susceptible to mental health problems relating to immigration and acculturation.  

  • Mental health disorders are more common among U.S.-born Latino/Hispanic people than those who are foreign-born. 

  • According to SAMHSA’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health, mental illness is on the rise for people in the Latino community in the U.S. between the ages of 12 and 49. 

  • From 2008 to 2018, serious mental illness (SMI) rose from 4% to 6.4% in Latino communities among people ages 18 to 25 and from 2.2% to 12% among people ages 26 to 49. 

  • Between 2015 and 2018, major depressive episodes increased from 12.6% to 15.1% in Latino communities in youth ages 12 to 17, 8% to 12% in young adults ages 18 to 25, and 4.5% to 6% in ages 26 to 49.  

  • By 2060, the number of Latino/Hispanic people in the United States is projected to grow to 119 million, or 28.6% of the population. This means that if the mental health stigma in the Latino community carries on, over a quarter of the population will suffer. 

In an attempt to cope with their mental illness, many Hispanic/Latino individuals binge drink, smoke, abuse prescription drugs, and abuse other illicit substances. These substances only provide temporary relief, however, and tend to only worsen the individual’s mental state as well as increase the risk of them developing a substance use disorder. Our rehab for mental health illness treatment in Boca offers co-occurring disorder treatment to help all who are struggling with both addiction and mental illness to recover. 

Barriers to Latino Mental Health Care 

Hispanic/Latino communities show similar vulnerability to mental illness as the general population, but they face unique disparities in both accessibility and quality of treatment. More than half of Hispanic/Latin young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 with serious mental health disorders may not receive treatment. Without treatment, mental health disorders usually worsen, meaning that this inequality puts the Latino community at a higher risk for more severe and persistent forms of mental illness.  

When considering the barriers that prevent the Hispanic/Latino community from receiving mental health treatment, the most common include:  

  • Language: Language barriers can make communicating one’s struggles with healthcare providers difficult. This is particularly true when a person is seeking counseling for something as sensitive and complex as mental health. These topics can be difficult for anyone to put into words, but it’s especially challenging for those who may not speak the same language as the healthcare professional. One way to avoid this issue is for providers to ask what the patient’s preferred language is before they begin their evaluation and to use interpreters when necessary. 

  • Poverty and lack of health insurance coverage: An estimated 17% of Hispanic/Latino people in the U.S. live in poverty (compared to 8.2% of non-Hispanic whites). Individuals who live in poverty are more likely to suffer from a mental illness, and individuals with mental illnesses are more likely to live in poverty. What’s more, 20% of nonelderly Hispanic people had no form of health insurance. In addition to facing limited options for health care due to language barriers, those in the Hispanic/Latino community have even fewer options when they’re uninsured. 

  • Lack of cultural understanding: Due to cultural differences and/or a lack of cultural competency, mental health providers often misunderstand or misdiagnose Latino/Hispanic individuals. For instance, the individual may describe feeling “nervios,” fatigue, headaches, or other physical ailments. While these symptoms are common among individuals with depression, a provider without training or an interpreter may misdiagnose the individual. This misdiagnosis can lead to poor use of medication and a lack of improvement in mental well-being.  

  • Legal status: For immigrants who do not have documentation, the fear of deportation may prevent them from seeking mental health care. Even though millions of children of undocumented immigrants are eligible for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, many families are either unaware of this eligibility or are afraid to register for fear of being deported or separated from their loved ones. 

  • Acculturation: Acculturation refers to how thoroughly a person has embraced or adopted the predominant culture of where they’re living. When it comes to mental health stigma in the Latino community, acculturation has been linked to an increased willingness to use mental health care services between first and second-generation immigrants from various cultural backgrounds. Understandably so, Hispanic/Latino communities face the added risk of experiencing mental health issues due to the stress of facing discrimination while also trying to navigate different cultures.  

Understanding Latino Mental Health Stigma

Now we get to what many might argue is the largest barrier to mental health care in the Latino community: stigma. People in the Hispanic/Latino community are often very private and may not want to publicly discuss their challenges. This mentality further contributes to the stigma concerning mental health in the Latino community, as talking about it can be viewed as taboo.  

Many in the Latino community are familiar with the phrase, “la ropa sucia se lava en casa” (meaning “dirty laundry is washed at home.”) This phrase refers to keeping one’s “dirty laundry” or problems confined to the privacy of their home. Some people don’t seek mental health treatment for fear of being called crazy or dramatic by their loved ones. Additionally, faith-based communities may be a source of distress if they’re not well-informed and don’t know how to support families affected by mental health problems.  

Stigma about mental health in the Latino community can also lead to a lack of information, as individuals may not recognize the signs of mental illness or know when to seek help. This may result in a lack of treatment. When mental health is not commonly discussed, people seeking treatment may have limited knowledge of the various types of therapy programs and psychiatric medications available. Therefore, incorporating mental health education, symptom monitoring, and general engagement with community resources can help individuals in the Latino community with mental illnesses to find help. 


Latino Mental Health Resources

If you don’t know how to start searching for mental health care, the first person you can go to is your primary doctor. A primary doctor can offer an initial assessment and get you a referral for a recommended mental health specialist. Primary doctors are often more familiar with their patients, as they tend to see them more regularly than specialists, making this a great place to start.  

When meeting with a provider, it can be helpful to ask questions and get a sense of the specialist’s cultural awareness. Providers expect and welcome questions from their patients since this helps them better understand the best form of care. Some sample questions include:  

  • Have you treated other Hispanic/Latino people? 

  • Have you received training in cultural competence or Latino/Hispanic mental health? 

  • How do you see our cultural backgrounds influencing our communication and my treatment? 

Additionally, if your preferred language is not English, let the office staff know when you schedule your appointment. This will allow them to schedule an interpreter for your visit. With these points in mind, remember to ask yourself if you feel heard and understood. If you’re still nervous, try to bring someone along who you trust that speaks English and can be your interpreter. This is just one way of adding additional options for communication. 

Here are some Latino mental health resources that can help you or a loved one find treatment:  

Latino Mental Health Treatment at Banyan  

Banyan Mental Health offers care and resources to Hispanic/Latino people suffering from mental illness. We even offer mental health diagnostic services to help determine the exact disorder you may be struggling with and determine the best course of treatment.  

Our facility provides individualized care for all types of mental health disorders, including treatment for depression, anxiety, OCD, PTSD, and more. To learn more about our options for mental health care in Boca Raton and how we can support you in your recovery, call Banyan Treatment Centers today at 888-280-4763 or send us your contact information and we’ll reach out to you.  

Nuestro centro brinda tratamiento individualizado para todo tipo de enfermedades de salud mental, incluido el tratamiento para la depresión, la ansiedad, el TOC, el PTSD y más. Para obtener más información sobre nuestras opciones de atención de la salud mental en Boca Ratón y cómo podemos apoyarlo en su recuperación, llame hoy a los Centros de Tratamiento de Banyan al 888-280-4763 o envíenos su información de contacto y nos comunicaremos con usted. 


  1. American Psychiatric Association - Mental Health Disparities: Hispanics and Latinos 

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Alyssa is Banyan’s Director of Digital Marketing & Technology. After overcoming her own struggles with addiction, she began working in the treatment field in 2012. She graduated from Palm Beach State College in 2016 with additional education in Salesforce University programs. A part of the Banyan team since 2016, Alyssa brings over 5 years of experience in the addiction treatment field.

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