Although Latinos are an ethnic group at high risk for mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and substance abuse, they are less likely than other groups to seek the help of a qualified mental health professional.
This is very troubling since not treating these and other mental health issues, can lead to a worsening of symptoms and the deterioration of quality of life as a result of severe imbalances. A large part of the “why” Latinos don’t seek treatment is the stigma of even acknowledging, much less seeking treatment for, mental health problems.
Traditionally, Latino families tend to keep everything close to the vest. Any perceived issues are dealt with through family or church networks. Those suffering from depression or anxiety, if it is acknowledged, are raised to believe they should seek counsel with a priest or other religious figures.
Dealing with mental health issues in the Latino culture
While turning to clergy or family during times of crisis can provide comfort, nothing takes the place of treatment with a trained professional. But when the fear of being labeled as “crazy” is so internalized in a culture, the road to relief is long.
This problem of acknowledgement and acceptance of mental illness is especially difficult for Latino men. The culture of “machismo” is a heavy burden to carry and with the Hispanic population nearly 50 million strong in the United States today, the unwillingness or inability to seek proper treatment for mental health issues is nothing short of a public health crisis.
If they do seek treatment at all, Latin men and women will most likely visit their general physician with physical complaints and expect to take medication to resolve their problems. These may very well be real, (remember, depression hurts), but by avoiding treatment with a mental health professional, they are destined to suffer more than necessary.
Other factors come into play when trying to develop an understanding of Latinos and mental health. Many are uninsured, and simply do not have the means to visit treatment centers of any kind, much less centers that specialize in treating mental health issues. Some, who have just arrived to the United States, are unable to communicate effectively in English, and there are not enough Spanish speaking healthcare providers to meet their needs. These social problems, of course, must be taken into account when discussing barriers to treatment.
From a holistic perspective, a large part of my practice focuses on understanding all the various components that make up a human being and all the various events that have shaped their lives.
I feel it is critical to delve as deeply as possible into a life in order to prepare a treatment plan that will yield results. Although many people understand on an intellectual level that trauma, family history and stress impact general well-being, they rarely go beyond that understanding.
In Latino culture, this is especially true. They feel they should just “shake it off” and carry on. Sharing “family secrets” with strangers has also been taught to be taboo in the Latino culture. Even today when going to a psychotherapist seems to be quite trendy in the United States, Latinos are still struggling with the concept of seeking professional help from a mental health professional because they do not want to expose their family problems to outsiders.
Holistic medicine offers patients a real alternative. By combining alternative and traditional therapies, and taking into account every part of each complex individual’s life experience, I believe success is within reach, no matter how grim the outcome may initially appear.
Holistic approach works best for Latinos’ mental health
In my practice, I use psychotherapy to explore and give patients a safe environment within which they can express long buried emotions and anxieties. An important component that I also address with my Latino patients is the challenges that they face as they try to acculturate into the American culture. Learning a new language and customs with little support can be very traumatic. As a Latina that came to the United States from the Dominican Republic over 40 years ago with a single mom, four siblings and a grandmother, I know firsthand how difficult it was for all of us to adapt to our new life.
There is no shame in acknowledging that certain events and feelings are difficult to bear and almost impossible to process without professional help. Holistic medicine takes people out of their fear and into natural healing. If traditional medicine is indicated such as using medication for depression and anxiety, then my practice takes all necessary steps to ensure patients get the assistance they need by referring to an allopathic doctor that can prescribe the appropriate medication. I work very closely with the patient’s doctors because I find that my patients thrive and come out feeling better than ever with the combination of treatments.
As a holistic trauma specialist, I have the tools and techniques to help patients process and release frozen memories so that they can move on with their lives. I combine counseling with hypnosis, nutritional counseling, massage therapy, acupuncture, yoga, meditation and many other effective and safe treatments. These powerful combinations have seen astonishing results in my practice and with my Latino patients.
When Latino culture can embrace the various options that exist in the United States to bring them to peak mental and physical health, I believe that this, the largest growing minority in the United States, will truly feel the benefits of a healthy and happy life.