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Mental health condition still a stigma in Hispanic community

The stigma of a mental health condition, although improving, seems to remain strong in certain segments of the United States population. In fact, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health estimates there are approximately15.9% of Hispanic adults suffering from a mental illness each year and many of them fail to get the professional help they need to treat their condition.

If the issue was simply treatment, the passage of Obamacare would help the estimated six million currently uninsured, giving them access to mental health services starting in January 2014. Experts, however, are concerned the issue is less about access to mental health care and more about the current stigma of mental disorders within the community.

How many in the Hispanic community get help for a mental health condition?

According to CNN and a report by the American Psychiatric Association's Office of Minority and National Affairs, on Latino mental health, they claim that fewer than 1 in 11 contact a mental health specialist when they have a mental health condition, while fewer than 1 in 5 contact a general health care provider. The problem is worse for Hispanics who are living in the United States illegally.

Who do Hispanics turn to if they have a mental health condition? It’s not unusual for Latinos to get help from their churches, families, and friends. Although having support from family members and friends is very important, they are not doctors and may not be able to correctly diagnose a mental health condition such as depression, bi-polar disorder or schizophrenia. Unfortunately, many times a serious health condition may be considered nothing more than nervousness, tiredness or a physical ailment, which is temporary.

Not many mental health specialists are Latino

Another concern is that less than 25% of mental health professionals are minorities, according to the American Psychological Association. Although doctors are capable of servicing a variety of clients with a mental health condition, experts note that having more Latinos service the Hispanic population could help increase what they call “culturally relevant strategies.”

The spirit of the Latino community often pushes individuals within that community to be self-reliant. Self-reliance and spiritual strength are integral for many, but individuals with a severe chemical imbalance or a severe mental health condition may also need medical intervention.

Others complain Latinos who have a mental disorder may suffer from peer pressure and teasing at school, but they may also face barriers when they do get medical attention, especially if the hospital staff does not have translators who understand Spanish.

Unfortunately, many believe the problem could get worse before it gets better. According to the National Resource Center for Hispanic Mental Health, “Hispanics are a high-risk group for depression, substance abuse and anxiety. About 1 in every 7 Latinos has attempted suicide.”

Other Hispanic adults are struggling with decreased employment opportunities, especially in the service industries, which took a hit during the most recent recession. And because the Latino population has now reached 53 million and is expect to grow even higher in the next few years, there may be even more severe health issues for more people in the future.

What is needed for this specific population? Experts argue new clinics and community centers in highly Hispanic-populated cities around the country can help, but educating the current population and motivating Latino youths to find good jobs in the health sector could also help.
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