8 Facts About Latinos & Mental Health That You Need to Know

By Cristina Arreola for Latina.

October 4th through 10th marks Mental Health Awareness Week, seven days dedicated to providing education and promoting awareness about mental health in our communities. This year, the theme, #IAmStigmaFree, revolves around eliminating the stigma and shame of living with mental illness.

The issue of stigma is especially relevant in the Latino community. According to a study published in the March-April 2011 issue of General Hospital Psychiatry, the stigma of mental illness, poor communication and the underuse of antidepressant all play a major part in delaying the recovery of Latinos from depression.

This week, help eliminate the stigma by educating yourself on mental health in the Latino community:

1. In general, Latinos are less likely to report mental illness. In 2011, the percentage of persons 18 or older with any mental illness was 15.9 percent among Latinos, compared to 18.8 percent among blacks, 20.5 percent amongs whites and 16.1 percent among Asians. However, among persons of two or more races, the numbers was especially high: 28.3 percent.

2. However, Hispanic students between grades 9-12 are at greater risk of attempting to commit suicide than their black and white peers. According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention 2015 Suicide Statistics, 18.9 percent of Hispanic students have seriously considered suicide, and 11.3 percent have attempted suicide. Tragically, four percent of Hispanic students have made a suicide attempt that resuilt in an injury, poisoning or overdose that required medical attention These numbers are all consistently higher than white or black students.

3. The prevalence of depression in Latino women is higher (46%) than Latino men (19.6%), according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

4. But, too few Latinos seek for mental illness. Among Hispanics with a mental disorder, fewer than one in 11 contact a mental health specialist, and fewer than one in five contact a general health care provider, according to the American Psychiatric Association's Office of Minority and National Affairs. Furthermore, less than 55 percent of Hispanic adults -- and only 30 percent of adolescents -- with a major depressive episode in receive treatment for depression.

Even more troubling, according to a study conducted by the Albert Einstein School of Medicine, just five percent of Hispanics surveyed reported using antidepressants, despite the fact that 27 percent suffered from depression.

5. First-and-second generation Hispanics are significantly more likely to exhibit symptoms of depression than immigrants. Additionally, Latino adolescents who experience discrimination-related stress are more likely to experience anxiety, depression and issues with sleep, according to research conducted by faculty members at New York University. These mental health outcomes were more pronounced among Latino teens born in the United States, as opposed to foreign-born teens.

6. Rates of depression vary by country of origin. According to a report released by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and the Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos, 27 percent of Latinos report high levels of depressive symptoms, with a low of 22.3 percent among those of Mexican background and a high of 38 percent among those of Puerto Rican background.

7. Unsurprisingly, insurance status plays a huge role in who seeks help. Over eight percent of insured people used antidepressants versus 1.8 percent of insured. However, these numbers still lagged compared to non-Hispanic whites, of whom 13.6 percent of those 12 and over reported taking antidepressants.

8. There's a lack of Latino health care professionals available for those seeking help. Just one percent of members of the American Psychology Association identified themselves as Latino during a study based on randomly selected samples. Latino doctors are needed to curb cultural and language gaps that may prevent some people from seeking the treatment they need. "Increasing the proportion of racial minority providers is considered an important factor for improving health disparities," wrote HealthAffairs. "This is even more important for mental health care, where ethnic minorites are even more poorly represented than in health care in general, and where diversity may make more of a difference in addressing minority patients' concerns about trust... a more diverse work-force would likely provide not only more culturally appropriate treatment, but also language skills to match those of patients."