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Latino/Hispanic Communities and Mental Health

Mental Health America works nationally and locally to raise awareness about mental health and ensures that those at-risk for mental illnesses and related disorders receive proper, timely and effective treatment. MHA incorporates culturally competent strategies to ensure that it is effectively addressing the treatment and psychosocial needs of consumers and families with diverse values, beliefs, sexual orientations, and backgrounds that vary by race, ethnicity and/or language.

Statistics

Demographics/Societal Issues

The following statistics were taken from the “Mental Health: Culture, Race and Ethnicity Supplement” to the 1999 U.S. Surgeon General’s Report on Mental Health.

  • Approximately 35.3 million people self-identify as Hispanic. The number is expected to increase to 97 million by 2050 – nearly one-fourth of the U.S. population. Mexican Americans comprise almost two-thirds of Latinos in the U.S., with the remainder being of Puerto Rican, Cuban, South American, Central American, Dominican, or Spanish origin.
  • Latinos are highly concentrated in the U.S. Southwest. 60% live in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Texas. However, from 1990 to 2000, the number of Latinos increased dramatically in Arkansas (170%), North Carolina (129%), Georgia (120%), Nebraska (108%), and Tennessee (105%).
  • Overall, only 56% of Latinos aged 25 and older have graduated from high school, compared to 83% of the total U.S. population. However, academic achievement varies considerably among Hispanic subgroups:70% of Cuban Americans, 64% of Puerto Ricans, and 50% of Mexican Americans aged 25 and older have graduated from high school.
  • The poverty rates are: 14% for Cuban Americans, 31% for Puerto Ricans, and 27% for Mexican Americans, compared to 13.5% of all Americans.

Attitudes

The following statistics were taken from the “Mental Health: Culture, Race and Ethnicity Supplement” to the 1999 U.S. Surgeon General’s Report on Mental Health.

  • Not much research has been done to study the attitudes of Latinos regarding mental health and mental illness. The New Jersey Mental Health Institute is currently working on a two-year, national anti-stigma and anti-discrimination project, Changing Minds, Advancing Mental Health for Hispanics, that will study these attitudes. The project is being funded by the Eli Lilly and Company Foundation.

Prevalence

The following statistics were taken from the “Mental Health: Culture, Race and Ethnicity Supplement” to the 1999 U.S. Surgeon General’s Report on Mental Health.

  • Generally speaking, the rate of mental disorders among Latinos living in the community is similar to that of non-Hispanic, white Americans. However:
  • Studies have found that Latino youth experience disproportionately more anxiety related and delinquency problem behaviors, depression and drug use than do non-Hispanic white youth.
  • Regarding older Latinos, one study found that over 26% of the sample was depressed, but the depression was related to physical health – only 5.5% of those without physical health problems said they were depressed.
  • Many refugees from Central America experienced considerable civil war-related trauma in their homelands. Studies have found rates of post-traumatic stress disorder among Central America refugee patients ranging from 33% to 60%.
  • In general, Latinos have rates of alcohol use similar to non-Hispanic whites. However, Hispanic women/Latinas have unusually low rates of alcohol and other drug use, while Latino men have relatively high rates. Rates of substance abuse are higher among U.S.-born Mexican Americans than among Mexican-born immigrants. Substance abuse rates are twice as high for U.S.- born Mexican American men than for Mexican-born men, but seven times higher for U.S.-born Mexican American women than for Mexican-born women.

The following statistics were taken from the Mexican American Prevalence and Services Survey (MAPPS), which studied rural and urban Mexican American and Mexican origin adults in Fresno County, California.

  • Mexican immigrants had about one-half the prevalence rates of major psychiatric disorders of either U.S. born Mexican Americans or other Americans.
  • Mexican Americans born in the U.S. have the same rates of mental disorders as the general U.S. population (48.7% vs. 48.6%).

Treatment Issues

The following statistics were taken from the “Mental Health: Culture, Race and Ethnicity Supplement” to the 1999 U.S. Surgeon General’s Report on Mental Health.

  • In 1990, about 40% of Hispanics either did not speak English at all or did not speak it well. While the percentage of Spanish-speaking mental health professionals is not known, only about 1% of licensed psychologists who are also members of the American Psychological Association identify themselves as Hispanic.

The following statistics were taken from the Mexican American Prevalence and Services Survey (MAPPS), which studied rural and urban Mexican American and Mexican origin adults in Fresno County, California.

  • Of the Mexican Americans surveyed who were suffering from more than 1 mental disorder:
    • 8.8% received care in the mental health sector
    • 18.4% received care in the general medical sector
    • 12.7% received care from other (non-mental health or general medical) professionals
    • 3.1% received care in the informal provider sector
    • Only 27% received care from any sector

Access/Insurance

The following statistics were taken from the “Mental Health: Culture, Race and Ethnicity Supplement” to the 1999 U.S. Surgeon General’s Report on Mental Health.

  • Nationally, 37 percent of Latinos are uninsured, compared to 16% for all Americans. Medicaid and other public coverage reach 18% of Latinos.
  • Among all Latinos with mental disorders, fewer than 1 in 11 contact mental health specialists, while fewer than 1 in 5 contact general health care providers. On the other hand, among Hispanic immigrants with mental disorders, fewer than 1 in 20 use services from mental health specialists, while fewer than 1 in 10 use services from general health care providers.

The following statistics were taken from the Mexican American Prevalence and Services Survey (MAPPS), which studied rural and urban Mexican American and Mexican origin adults in Fresno County, California.

The primary reasons for service underuse among Mexican Americans in Fresno County were:

  • Lack of knowledge about where to receive treatment
  • The location of treatment centers near one’s place of residence
  • Having transportation to obtain help or treatment, and
  • The availability of Spanish-speaking professionals.

Educational Materials

MHA has developed unique materials for Hispanic/Latino audience:

Brochures/Fact Sheets

Websites:

Partnerships and Resources

2000 N. Beauregard Street,
6th Floor Alexandria, VA 22311

Phone (703) 684.7722

Toll Free (800) 969.6642

Fax (703) 684.5968

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