Mental health disparities observed among Latino children in U.S.

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    Mental health in Latino children

    Hispanic children are more likely than non-Hispanic children to be undiagnosed for mental health conditions. (Shutterstock photo)

    Latino children suffer from a number of disparities when it comes to mental health, indicated a report issued by the National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP). According to a statement from report co-author Dr. Janice Cooper, “mental health services for Latino children and youth are lacking.”

    More than 60 percent of Latino youth, some 8.8 million of them, live in low-income families, states the report, compared to 26 percent of non-Hispanic white children. Low socioeconomic standing makes it difficult for Latino children to receive the mental health care they need.

    Language barriers also hinder mental health treatment for the minority group, and Hispanic children are the least likely of any minority demographic to receive mental health care services, added the report.

    Latino children and mental health disparities in the U.S.

    The NCCP report is not the first to examine mental health disparities in Latino youth. Researchers at the University of California, Davis, released a study indicating Hispanic children with developmental issues are often underdiagnosed.

    “Our study raises concerns about access to accurate, culturally relevant information regarding developmental milestones and the importance of early detection and treatment,” said Virginia Chaidez, the study’s lead author and a postdoctoral researcher in the public health sciences department at the University of California, Davis, in a statement.

    Mental health in Latino children

    Among all children, not just Hispanics, developmental delays were found to be under-diagnosed. (Shutterstock photo)

    She added, because parents are not aware of the signs and symptoms of mental health disorders such as autism and do not have access to adequate surveillance and screenings, conditions often go undiagnosed.

    During the UC research, 6.3 percent of Hispanic children participating in the study showed signs of developmental delay, compared to 2.4 percent of non-Hispanics. Overall, 19 percent of study participants with developmental delays actually appeared to have autism.

    Our results emphasize the importance of considering cultural and other family factors such as multiple language exposure that can affect development when interpreting clinical tests, even when they are conducted in the child’s preferred language,” said study co-author Robin Hansen, chief of developmental-behavioral pediatrics at UC Davis, in the statement.

    The evidence of mental health disparities among Latino youth is being observed by experts around the country; ctLatinonews reports one-third of children treated for mental health issues in Connecticut are Latino, a number significantly larger than the percentage of Latinos in the state’s population, suggesting Latino youth not only are underdiagnosed but are more likely than other ethnicities to suffer mental health issues.

    The Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services states Latino youth are at an increased risk for mental health issues when compared to non-Hispanic whites due to higher rates of depression, suicide attempts and anxiety.

    “Young men of color rarely receive mental health services through the traditional systems. And it’s been documented repeatedly in our juvenile justice system, two-thirds of the young men have mental health issues. We would suggest then they need help,” said Patricia Baker, president and CEO of the Connecticut Health Foundation to ctLatinonews.

    That Latino youth in Connecticut are seeking mental health is a step in the right direction, however, though experts in the state feel the over-representation of Hispanics in the data is concerning.


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