Living with depression in a Latino household usually goes something like this. Your mom, having the motherly instinct that she has, notices that something is wrong, and asks, “¿Qué tienes?” What’s wrong? You answer, “nada,” nothing. And your mom immediately calls you crazy for having no explanation for your visible sadness, hopelessness, and irritable mood.
This reaction is more prevalent than you would think. Depression and other mental disorders carry shame in Latino communities. While Latina women have the highest rate of clinical depression; words like depression and mental disorder are often unspoken in our community.
Accepting that depression is a mental disorder is only part of the battle, seeking treatment can be the toughest part. The stigma that mental disorders carry affects the decision of seeking treatment. The American Psychiatric Association in a 2014 study found that 36 percent of Hispanics with depression received care, versus 60 percent of whites.
Image Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jronaldlee/4536612994
Many of the obstacles that Latinos who suffer from depression face, derive from the differences in cultural views when it comes to health and how health-related issues are treated. More often than not, mental disorders are not even considered a health issue, but an issue that you have control over and that you can stop at any time. Calling someone“loca,” crazy for having no distinguishable reason for his or her current emotional state only attaches a greater stigma to the problem.
In reality, there is no single cause for major depression but a combination of psychological, biological, and environmental factors all contributing to the disorder. It has been established that major depression IS a biological, medical illness, and there is an increased risk for developing depression when there is a family history of the illness.
What does this mean for Latinos? Those who immigrate to a new country and have to adjust to a new culture live with great stress, a risk factor for depression. Other risk factors such as racial/ethnic discrimination, low-status and high-stress jobs, unemployment, ill health, large family sizes, divorces or separation and single parenthood, language barriers, and lack of acculturation can have an adverse effect on a person’s mental health.
In order to remove the stigma behind depression and mental disorders in the Latino community, we must raise awareness. Latinos have to be a part of the dialogue on dealing with depression. By having this dialogue, the stereotypes attached to the illness can be removed, making it easier on people to seek out treatment.
Raising awareness for mental disorders such as depression has been difficult. Recently, the hashtag #TheWorstPartOfDepressionIs started trending; creating a much-needed conversation about mental health issues that affect people cross-culturally.
Users shared some of the challenges of dealing with depression. Their stories shed light on the physical and mental toll that the disorder has on those affected. Erika L. Sanchez shared one of the most common and inaccurate assumptions about depression, “#TheWorstPartOfDepressionIs that people think is a choice.”
Creating much-needed awareness about mental disorders such as depression starts with you. Click on the hashtag, educate yourself about depression, be more understanding, and learn how you can help when someone you know shows symptoms of depression.