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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.

Demographics/Societal Issues

According to the U.S. Census Bureau (http://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/facts_for_features_spec...):

  • 17.1 percent of the population, or approximately 54 million people, self-identify as Hispanic, up from 35.3 million people just fifteen years earlier.  By 2060, the number of Hispanics in the United States is projected to grow to 129 million, or 31 percent of the population.  Of all of the nations of the world, only Mexico has a larger Hispanic population than the United States.
  • 65 percent of U.S. Hispanics have a Mexican background, followed by 9.4 percent with a Puerto Rican background, 3.8 percent with a Salvadoran background, 3.6 percent with a Cuban background, 3 percent with a Dominican background, and 2.3 percent with a Guatemalan background.
  • Latinos are highly concentrated in a few states in the U.S., including Texas, California, and New Mexico. 47 percent of New Mexico’s population is Hispanic.  Hispanics also constitute significant percentages of the population in states such as Arizona, Colorado, and Washington.  Also, more than one million Hispanics live in Florida, Illinois, New York, and New Jersey.
  • Hispanics owned 8.3 percent of U.S. firms in 2008.
  • Overall, 63 percent of Latinos have graduated from high school and 13 percent have graduated from college.
  • Twenty-five percent of Hispanics live in poverty.
  • There are 1.2 million Hispanic armed forces veterans in the U.S.

Attitudes

While some believe that Latinos have a negative attitude toward mental health care, and that this explains lower access rates when compared to non-Latino whites, there is very little recent research examining this issue or supporting this view.  As reported in Psychiatry Online in 2009, (http://ps.psychiatryonline.org/article.aspx?articleid=100829) “Hispanics or Latinos may have more positive attitude toward mental health treatment seeking than non-Hispanic whites,” suggesting that treatment barriers come about not because of negative attitudes, but because of other structural barriers to care, including language and socioeconomic factors.

Prevalence

Lifetime prevalence rates among Latino Americans born in the U.S. are lower than those for non-Latino whites, vary among ethnic groups, and are higher among U.S.-born Latinos than they are among foreign-born Latinos.  According to the 2008 article, “Prevalence of Mental Illness in Immigrant and Non-Immigrant U.S. Latino Groups (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2712949/):

  • Lifetime prevalence rates are more than 50 percent for non-Latino whites born in the U.S., versus between 30 and 40 percent for Latino populations born in the U.S.
  • Among U.S. born Latinos, Mexican Americans and Puerto Ricans have comparable lifetime prevalence rates, around 40 percent, while Cuban Americans and other Latinos have lifetime prevalence rates closer to 30 percent. 
  • Among immigrants, Cuban Americans, Mexican Americans, and other Latinos all have lifetime prevalence rates below 30 percent.

Despite these generally lower rates, according to CDC data reported in 2012 (Health United States, 2011, http://minorityhealth.hhs.gov/templates/content.aspx?lvl=3&lvlID=9&ID=6477):

  • Latino high school males are just as likely to report suicidal thinking as non-Latino whites (10.7 percent versus 10.5 percent), and more likely to attempt suicide (6.9 percent versus 4.6 percent).
  • Latino high school females are more likely to report suicidal thinking than non-Latino white females (20.2 percent to 16.1 percent) , and more like to attempt suicide as well (13.5 percent to 7.9 percent).
  • As the CDC data suggest, young Latino females are nearly twice as likely as males both to think about suicide and to attempt suicide.

Treatment Issues

In 2005, the American Psychological Association (http://www.apa.org/monitor/jan05/closingthegap.aspx) noted that while one in five Americans identifies as Hispanic, only one percent of psychologists identified themselves as Hispanic.  APA went on to note that while 70 percent of non-Hispanic whites return for a second appointment after an initial visit to a psychologist, on 50 percent of Hispanics do.

APA found that both language barriers and values created barriers to treatment.

The American Psychiatric Association digested several recent studies in a 2014 fact sheet (file:///C:/Users/me/Downloads/fact-sheet---latinos.pdf).  Among its highlights, it found that:

  • 36 percent of Hispanics with depression received care, versus 60 percent of whites.
  • Bilingual patients are evaluated differently when evaluated in English versus Spanish, and Hispanics are more frequently undertreated than are whites.

Access/Insurance

According to research reported in Health Services Research in 2013, 40 percent of whites with a probable need for mental health services reported that they would seek treatment, versus only 27 percent of Latinos.

In additional, in April 2014, Mental Health America launched a suite of online mental health screening tools on its website (www.MHAscreening.org).  In analyzing a sample of over 50,000 screens, MHA found that significant percentages of Latino respondents indicated that they would either self-monitor their mental health or seek guidance from a peer.

Both of these finding echo earlier statistics from the “Mental Health: Culture, Race and Ethnicity Supplement” to the 1999 U.S. Surgeon General’s Report on Mental Health, which found that 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.

According to US Census data (2011), prior to the passage of the Affordable Care Act, 30 percent of Hispanics lacked health insurance, versus 11 percent of non-Hispanic whites.

Educational Materials

MHA has developed unique materials for Hispanic/Latino audience:

Brochures/Fact Sheets

Websites:

  • www.mhascreening.org  Multiple screening tools, with follow-up referral resources, are available, but screening tools are in English only

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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