Mental health disorders are prevalent among communities of colors, especially Latinos. However, more often than not, we prefer to not seek out treatment because the stigma associated with mental illness. Many Black and Latinos would prefer to ignore their symptoms over talking about them openly, and go misdiagnosed and untreated. While an individual may have their feelings towards mental health, it is heavily intertwined with how they were raised, what they learned in school, or heard/read in the news. But I’m here to tell you that we can break these barriers down by seeking help, being open to talking about mental health, and we don’t have to do it alone.
Seeking out professional help is OK. Growing up in Latino household, we are taught that family is everything and what happens in the house stays in the house “lo de la casa se quede en la casa”. We are expected to keep our problems within our inner circle which doesn’t include a Social Worker or Psychologist but instead your family, your church, or that aunt that’s really your neighbor but saw you grow up “desde pequena”. It’s okay to seek professional help for your mental health because the longer you go untreated or try to subside you symptoms, the more consequences that could potential arise. The pressure to hide your mental health from your family can be scary and lead you to feeling alone or isolated. Being aware and transparent around your mental illness once you’re receiving professional help, can help with overcoming the fear and stigma.
Uncomfortable but equally IMPORTANT. Speaking with your friends or family members openly about your experiences isn’t always easy, especially when it’s shunned upon or swept under the rug. Various methods are recommended by therapists and mental health providers on how to open the door to your mental health and one of the suggestions is to use phrases like “I need to speak with you” or “Please listen to me before you say anything”. Even saying phrases like that can trigger a response from your friends or family, so it’s important when you speak to them that they are calm and can give you their full attention. Think about when your significant other says “We need to talk”, it raises so many red flags, so create the space and above all be patient. Use transparency when sharing what you are experiencing, how this is impacting you, and why you need their support through this.
In addition, when communicating to your loved ones about mental health use language that makes sense to them, as they grapple with what you’re sharing with them. Think about how long it might have taken you to acknowledge your symptoms and seek support. Try to stay away from using words such as “mental disorder” or “abnormal”, as they are certain to bring up shame and avoidance. Talk about symptoms that have no shame or stigma like loss of appetite or insomnia, this will allow to break the ice.
If not them, then who? Confiding in your friends and family about your state of mental health doesn’t always go over easy, so it’s important to know the resources available to you. In my upcoming post, I will share ways to finding a therapist or mental health provider but it’s important that once you know your symptoms that you seek support. It doesn’t always have to be individual counseling, but can instead be support groups.
Once you start talking about your mental health, the more people will start to pay attention and can help eliminate the shame and stigma surrounding the world of mental illness. The results of talking and accepting mental health can be life-saving, so don’t remain quiet and let others beliefs of mental health keep you from helping others and seeking help yourself. Mental health is so much more common than we realize and we need to initiate the conversation because sharing your story can do more for others than you can imagine.