Mental Health in Hispanic Culture: Essay

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Mental health is defined as an individual's concern over their emotional, psychological, and behavioral well-being. Furthermore, it is determined through the capability of managing stress and having the ability to function properly through different scenarios. It is important to observe one's mental health and seek aid when problems begin to arise. However, when there is a clear lack of attention concerning mental health, it can lead to more serious health disorders. For instance, mental health is stigmatized in Hispanic culture, where there is a lack of proper discussion concerning mental health, social pressure, labeling, and strong belief in religious faith. To begin with, there is a set of values that are greatly emphasized in Hispanic culture. These values tend to play a major role in the functionality of a traditional Hispanic family. It is not uncommon for Hispanic families to value the ideals of 'familismo', which signifies dedication and loyalty that is devoted to one's family. It also signifies honor, respect, and cooperation. In addition, other essential values concern religion, where the church and faith play a huge role in the lives of Hispanics. However, while many of these values seem to be typical, the issue concerning mental health arises due to deep-rooted beliefs that emerge. Many of these beliefs and values contribute to the bias concerning mental health, especially because of old-fashioned conservative views. In brief, the values spoken about will be explained as to why stigma over mental health is as bad as it is.

In general, no discussion takes place concerning mental health. The heavy stigma that haunts Hispanic culture prevents any mentally ill individual from seeking out any help. However, while many reasons force these Hispanics to avoid help, one that should be discussed is lack of communication and social stigma. Many of these individuals have difficulty finding anyone to discuss with, especially because of the mindset that is rooted within the culture. One of these issues concerns the ideals of 'familismo'. Loyalty between families is a value that many can agree on, however, there is a problem with the concept that Hispanic culture faces. 'Familismo' represents a familial obligation and is an expectation that needs to be followed, because many mentally fragile individuals will likely not speak on any emotions due to pressure. The ideals of 'familismo' value personal sacrifice and put the needs of the family over personal choice and desire. Which, as stated before, can put enormous pressure on the individual. Another issue is among statements such as ​“​La ropa sucia se lava en la casa”​, ​which means​ “dirty laundry is washed at home”,​ which can keep a vulnerable individual from seeking out further help due to pressure. With that being said, it is a cultural belief of Hispanics to not discuss their issues in public due to fear of being judged and mistreated. This brings up the next topic concerning labeling.

Hispanics avoid looking for any form of help due to fear of being labeled as 'loco' or other names. One such example comes from ​Liz Maganallez who states: “No one wants to be la loca. Once you are branded ‘the crazy one’, the damage seems impossible to undo. The angst of knowing tios, primas, and other relatives will whisper about it at the next family gathering and the feeling there is nothing that can be done to remedy it can be overwhelming”. Liz Maganallez discusses the reality that is present in Hispanic culture, where stigma can cause family and friends to view an individual in a different light. This ideal further prevents the individual from seeking out any form of help, and if they do, many times, the family will not be convinced.

A third cause is put into action when an individual does disclose their mental disorders to family or friends. However, the concern that stigma causes over mental health is that there is a clear point of perception where these types of issues are seen as an exaggeration, therefore, these individuals are viewed as weak. This is a reality for many individuals such as Melani Santos who discloses: “Telling my Caribbean parents that I couldn’t control my anxiety attacks fell on closed ears. They thought that my attacks — which were usually triggered by arguments with them — were rage outbursts that I was mimicking from what I saw on TV to get their attention”. With this information, it shows a lack of proper education, which provides ignorance over mental health. Depression in the eyes of a parent can be viewed as an individual just being upset, lazy, and exaggerating. Or the possibility of family members denying the feelings that the individual feels.

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Another action that a mentally fragile individual may receive concerns my next point about religion. When a mentally fragile individual finally expresses their thoughts to a family member, they are very likely to hear phrases such as ​“You should pray to God more”​ or ​“God is punishing you!”. ​A reality that is provided by Robel Espino who states: “I then told my dad that I felt depressed, and he responded, ‘You are a man, and you are a Christian man, a son of God, and the Holy Spirit is in you causing you joy each day, so you cannot be depressed’”. Like the values concerning family, religion is another backbone of Hispanic values. However, the ideals concerning religion go much deeper than simple belief. According to Susan Caplan, it is not uncommon for Hispanics to believe that mental illness is caused by sin or lack of faith, or can be cured through prayer. This type of belief can cause people to be discouraged from seeking any help from professionals.

Social stigma caused by beliefs in Hispanic culture can provide a problem when at the doctor's office. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America’s report, only 20 percent of Hispanics who suffer some sort of mental illness will seek out help from a doctor. In addition, only 10 percent will continue any form of treatment. Not only that, a study done by the ​Colorado Health Institute states that 40 percent of Hispanics with an undisclosed mental illness reported a lack of comfort in discussing personal issues with a doctor. These provided statistics underline the issues that are happening due to cultural beliefs. Influence and pressure hinder an individual from looking for any sort of help, which can cause bigger issues to arise.

When mental illness is left untouched, many times its effects can get worse. These effects can manifest in issues such as unexplained aches and pains, homelessness, job instability, physical health problems, trauma, and sadly, suicide. Furthermore, anxiety disorder, major depression, PTSD, and alcohol and drug abuse are stated by the National Alliance on Mental Illness’s report to be among the common mental illness conditions that Hispanics suffer. These statistics provide an incitement for the reality in many of these individuals' lives. With this in mind, it is important to determine a way to help educate these people about mental health. So, what can be done? How can we help them?

We have discussed in great length that Hispanics have a strong sense of belief in their morals, especially concerning family and religion. Nonetheless, there is an obvious lack of knowledge that they have about mental health that needs to be introduced. Especially due to the well-being of the mentally ill that continue to suffer. Proper education can come from a doctor's help, where they can help provide information to the uninformed. Doctors can help decriminalize mental illness without undermining their beliefs by educating what a mental illness is and how to prevent further damage. Not only that, Hispanics need to be able to discuss with each other to provide an opportunity to learn that mental illness does not make you 'crazy' or other labels that can scare off people.

Given these points, morality is a big aspect of the functionality of Hispanic culture, however, when these virtues begin to harm mental health through social pressure, religious faith, and obligation, then interference is necessary. Better education through doctors' help and experience can help dissuade the stigma that Hispanics have over mental health. With this type of help, issues that occur can be minimized.

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Mental Health in Hispanic Culture: Essay. (2024, February 28). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 18, 2024, from
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