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The Latino culture is a beautiful culture. There is richness in the food, clothes, music, and language. Of course, any other person would feel the same way about their culture. Who would not feel proud of the culture they represent? But just as there are beautiful things, there are ugly things that need to be brought out to light. A big issue within the Latino culture is the stigma around depression. 

Depression in Hispanic households is taboo. If you talk about depression, it is either to criticize it and say you only have depression if you are a bad person, you don’t have faith, or you are expected to push it aside and say it is only for other people who are not Hispanic. 

My dad would tell me this phrase whenever I opened up about my feelings and my struggles with depression, “We (Hispanics) have strong blood in our veins which makes us invisible to things like depression.” When you talk to your parents about the things you are dealing with, you want them to seriously talk with you instead of invalidating your emotions and feelings. This is sometimes impossible in a Hispanic household as we are mainly raised to hold it in and not let it show, leading to many people not reaching out for help when they face depression. 

Medical News Today has reported the increase in mental illness in the Latino Culture, in the span of a year: 

  • Youth (12-17): 12.6% to 15.1%
  • Young Adults (18-25): 8% to 12% 
  • Adults (26-49): 4.5% to 6%

The question then arises, how does the Hispanic culture affect this? How does growing up in a Latino household cause depression to spiral or go unresolved? Why do the numbers keep increasing? Why are our parents so against us getting help for the issues and problems we go through, mentally? 

The same article lists a couple of factors for the questions above: 

Familismo 

When we grow up in a Hispanic family, we are taught the importance of family and what family should mean to us. Parents would argue that since you have family around you, you shouldn’t be  feeling sad and depressed, which varies from person to person. Some might enjoy the company of family and others find pressure with the family. Especially as a first-generation child, there is a lot of pressure to be the best, to do well in school, to behave properly, to provide, and even later on, you are going to be the child to take care of the parents once they are older. There is a lot of pressure when it comes to family that can lead to depression and anxiety, especially in thinking about the what-ifs. 

Religion 

Religion is another major factor when it comes to mental health. In a Hispanic household, you have to wake up early on Sundays to get dressed to go to church. It is fine to have beliefs and religion of course, but Hispanic parents push it on their children, especially when they deal with depression. When I told my dad that I finally got medication to deal with my depression and anxiety, the first thing he told me was, “Want to know how to get rid of that? You need to go to church and confess these thoughts so God can heal you.” My mom would even take me to prayer circles to “pray away my demons.” This can be disappointing when you want to build a relationship with them, yet you see how much they are in their faith to think that religion is the only thing that can help. Religion does not make depression go away. It can help, but it is not the only solution. 

Taboos and stigma 

Latino communities rarely talk about mental health problems as they view it as “inappropriate, embarrassing, or shameful,” (Morales-Brown). This idea that mental health is embarrassing and shameful to families can really affect us in the way we try to handle how to deal with our mental health. Since we cannot talk about it with our parents or even seek a therapist, it makes it harder to receive help.

There are so many other factors that contribute to the ways the Latino Community deals with mental health. But as new generations are exposed to new ideas and how we can find help to deal with depression, anxiety, trauma, etc., we want to learn more about these issues and what we can do to help ourselves and the younger generations. 

Our parents and older generations might never understand, even if they have shown some symptoms of mental illness. The more we learn about mental health as Latinos, the more we can help our community to know they are free to talk about it. 

Every day the taboos and stigma, when it comes to depression, are decreasing as there are people speaking out and people who are reaching for help by going to a therapist. Personally, I was only able to truly seek help once I moved on campus as they had a free service. From there, I was able to deal with my depression and anxiety without feeling guilty that my family and religion were not able to help. My parents may be in the dark about me seeing a therapist but maybe later when they have accepted it, then I can tell them. For now, I want to help myself mentally before changing their opinions. 

What are your thoughts about the stigma of depression in the Latino Culture? Do you believe it is decreasing or increasing? 

Sources:

Morales-Brown, L. (n.d.). What role does Hispanic culture play in depression? Medical News Today. Retrieved April 19, 2022, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/depression-in-hispanic-culture#barriers 


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Daniela Hernandez Ayala
Daniela Hernandez Ayala is a first-generation college student at McDaniel College pursuing a B.A in Political Science and Spanish. She is also minoring in Sociology. Daniela’s goal is to get her JD in either the Immigration or Criminal Law Field. She wants to dedicate her life to her community and the people who suffer from the oppressed and unjust society. Her passion has always been words whether that is in books or writing. She enjoys the escape from reality that can be found in words. She wants to use this skill she is learning to bring awareness to the Latino Community.

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