Latinos are less likely to seek mental health services, even when treatment can help. While 40 percent of whites seek treatment only 27 percent of Latinos do, according to a report by Health Services Research in 2013.
As the Latino population grows, more Latinos will be in need of mental health services, some seeking them for the first time, experts say.
When someone suffers from a mental illness in a Latino family, instead of seeking help, many tend to turn inward and try to deal with it themselves, which may prevent the afflicted person from obtaining relief and proper care.
We need to “get off the denial track, and see if you can help your loved one understand what’s going on with them,” said Josie Méndez-Negrete, a sociologist teaching at the University of Texas in San Antonio.
Méndez-Negrete will be in Austin on Jan. 16 for a book reading. She will talk about A Life on Hold, a book she wrote about how she and her husband have dealt with their son’s schizophrenia. “They’re human beings who exist in a different reality than what we set up as ‘normal,’” she said.
Mental health conditions can improve with the help of a mental health professional and, often, medication, according to experts. But Latinos may confront cultural barriers.
While about 17 percent of Americans identifies as Hispanic, only 1 percent of psychologists do, according to theAmerican Psychological Association. The lack of familiarity with Latino patients may explain why only 50 percent of Latinos return for a second appointment, while 70 percent of non-Hispanic whites do, according to the association.
Access to health care is another barrier, even with the Affordable Act Care. Many of those who do seek medical help, first have to go to a primary care physician before they can be referred to a specialist, Méndez-Negrete said.
“Be ready to give evidence for things that are going wrong,” said Méndez-Negrete.
Whether the symptoms include hearing voices, or experiencing extreme fear as her son does, the condition needs to be treated and monitored, just as if it were something like diabetes, she said.
There is still stigma surrounding mental illness and those afflicted by it want to be seen as normal, she said. “To understand mental illness, we have to begin with the humanization of the individual and who they are as people.”
Her son Tito is brilliant. He’s a poet and he’s loving and compassionate, she said. The most important thing is to recognize the symptoms and seek help.
If you go…
What: Reading and book-signing of A Life on Hold by Josie Méndez-Negrete, Ph.D.
When: 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday
Where: Resistencia Bookstore, 4926 E. Cesar Chavez St., Unit C1
Cost: Free and open to the public
Details: www.resistenciabooks.com or 512-389-9881.
Get more coverage of the Austin area’s Hispanic community every week in our free Spanish-language edition, ¡Ahora Sí!, and online atstatesman.com/ahorasi.