Depression: Latinos Impacted At A Higher Rate


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Robin Williams’ death on Monday, his suicide, stunned the world. The paradox of a comedian committing suicide made the incident ponderous and perplexing. A man who made the world laugh, who was a master of touching hearts and bringing smiles to our faces, in the end, struggled to find his own happiness.

Depression is a mental health disorder that affects an estimated 1 in 10 adults. Some of these adults are comedians. Others are Latinos.

According to data collected by the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI), depression affects Latinos more than any other ethnicity, and most predominantly U.S-born Latinos. Suicide is the third leading cause of death for Hispanic Americans aged 15 to 24, the third leading cause of death for those aged 25-34, and the 13th leading cause of death for Hispanics of all ages.

Unfortunately, due to the huge stigma associated with depression many Latinos fail to seek help. There are both cultural and socioeconomic elements that contribute to Latinos failing to get help. Job constraints, language barriers, lack of insurance, and inadequate mental health education can all be roadblocks for Latinos who need or should seek reach out and seek help.

In an article for Being Latino, contributor, Dr. Isaura González — a Clinical Psychologist, supplied the following insight: “Depression is not a solely biological illness for Latinos but it may be triggered from environmental or external factors and, more recently, has been the trend due to financial struggles which can be linked to their undocumented status.”

Latinos tend to work restaurant jobs or otherwise jobs with odd hours. Latinos are also the largest group without insurance, or at least prior to Obama Care, but even so there are Spanish-language barriers as well that some face when seeking care.

Latinos also will, more often than not, turn to their communities rather than a professional for support. They will most likely seek support through their church, their families, and immediate communities. They will often contribute symptoms to general fatigue, rather than depression, and hope that it will go away on its own. This leads to undiagnosed mental and behavioral issues, that left untreated can lead to tragic outcomes.

Dr. Gonzalez expanded further in the article for Being Latino by saying “Latinos often are a very proud people and proud community.  They often feel that they can handle their problems.  And like the old adage: “La ropa sucia se lava en casa”  Dirty clothes are washed at home.  Many times, individuals do not want their dirty laundry being seen by others even if it is by a professional.  There is a lot of shame and fear of being judged.”

Dr. Gonzalez advises that it is important to help not just Latinos but everyone realize that seeking help is not a weakness. If you broke your arm, are you going to just hope the pain will simply “go away” or would you find a doctor? It is important to shift people’s opinions of depression. Alleviating this crippling stigma can save lives.

Symptoms of depression include loss of appetite, change of sleeping patterns, loss of familial ties and friends, loss of job, and loss of drive. These symptoms can lead to serious consequences, do not wait, do not feel ashamed, it is a common side effect of this chaotic life.