By Katharine Campos
“Family comes first,” my mother always says. It constantly reminds me how important spending time with them is.
Growing up, I was always surrounded by an endless number of family members. My grandmother, aunts, uncles, cousins, second cousins-you name it-all gathered together to celebrate special occasions by eating delicious food and dancing the night away. Latino culture is typically very family-oriented, and in my experience, often extends beyond immediate family. Not only has my family been with me during times of celebration, they’ve been with me through challenging times as well.
The strong value Latinos place on family is often a source of comfort and empowerment. Research suggests that people who feel supported by their family may also have better mental health. Warm relationships in Latino families can help a family member with a mental health condition during recovery. In addition, people with strong emotional bonds to family members tend to have less symptoms of psychological distress.
Receiving that level of support can sometimes be challenging. A person with a mental health condition may isolate himself or herself, or their family might live far away. However, even in those cases, it is still possible to create a network of support by joining a mental health support group in your community for emotional support. Positive support networks give us strength during hard times.
Despite the importance Latino culture typically places on family relationships, mental health is still not openly discussed enough in our homes. There are a lot of misconceptions on mental health conditions that may also affect the decision for many members of the Latino community to seek treatment.
Before I began receiving treatment for depression and anxiety after my first year in college, my family did not speak much about mental health. It took me a long time to go to a mental health professional at my school because I kept thinking that I could get better on my own. Some of my family members also initially thought that I could “shake off” what I was going through, and that with faith, I could overcome it.
Ongoing conversations on mental health are now a regular thing in my family. I’m thankful for this because it has strengthened our ties to one another. Discussion is the key to understanding that mental health conditions are biological, not a form of weakness. We must encourage our family members and friends to seek out the help they need and support them during their recovery process.
Hispanic Heritage Month provides the opportunity to not only come together to celebrate our cultural pride, but also to shed light on some of the unique challenges that the Latino community faces when it comes to mental health. Latinos are a very diverse group with different experiences. However, many of us share the similar struggle of balancing our cultural heritage with the culture of the place we currently call home.
Here is what the data tells us about mental health in the Latino population:
Considering these issues, it’s important to remember both how Latinos have enriched American society and how Latinos can enrich their own lives both physically and emotionally.
Together, we can empower the members of our community and fight stigma.
During Hispanic Heritage Month, let’s not only celebrate Latino culture, but advocate for mental health awareness. Here are some ways you (Latinos and non-Latinos) can take action:
We’re always accepting submissions to the NAMI Blog! We feature the latest research, stories of recovery, ways to end stigma and strategies for living well with mental illness. Most importantly: We feature your voices.
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