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The fear of being labeled "loco" in the Hispanic community: disparities in mental health

Mental health issues vary among communities, especially in the extent to which they are discussed and prioritized. Growing up in a Hispanic household and living in a predominantly Hispanic community, I observe firsthand how mental health struggles are commonly viewed as inappropriate, embarrassing, or even shameful. This mindset contributes to the stigma surrounding mental illnesses, causing people to suffer in silence for lengthy periods of time. This silence exacerbates a variety of circumstances that might contribute to mental health problems, such as immigration, acculturation, trauma, and generational conflicts. It should be noted that the Latinx/Hispanic population faces unique structural and institutional barriers that may make it harder for them to get mental health care, which makes them less likely to ask for help.

Barriers in Hispanic communities:


As a Hispanic first-generation individual, I notice how Hispanic families and communities are highly private and do not like to share their mental struggles in public. This perspective perpetuates the cycle of stigma around mental health in the community, as discussing it might be considered taboo. Many Latinx individuals are familiar with the saying "la ropa sucia se lava en casa" (roughly translated as "don't air your dirty laundry in public"). Some people avoid seeking mental health therapy for fear of being labeled "locos" (crazy) or attracting humiliation and unwelcome attention from their families. Stigma within the Hispanic/Latinx community can also prevent individuals from recognizing the symptoms of mental health conditions and seeking assistance. As a result, individuals may avoid seeking treatment.


Hispanic communities are vulnerable in the face of mental health struggles, but they are also subjected to disparities in both access and quality of treatment. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, more than half of young adults ages 18–25 with serious mental illness do not receive treatment. This inequality makes the Hispanic community more vulnerable to coping with the stressors hindering their lives because, without accessible help and treatment, mental health struggles are difficult to overcome.

Legal status

Many Hispanics come to the United States illegally in hopes of a better life, and this choice is often accompanied by the terror of deportation. As a result, many Hispanics don't get the aid they need when they really need it. For example, my mother emigrated to the United States when I was two years old, and this experience would be a constant hindrance to her. My mother once told me that she suffered from "mental instability, sadness, and fear" but that she was unable to get professional assistance due to a lack of insurance and documentation. In spite of the fact that millions of children of illegal immigrants are eligible for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, many families may be unaware of their eligibility or reluctant to register for coverage out of fear of separation or deportation.

Language Barrier

When seeking counseling for personal or highly intimate situations, a person's inability to communicate effectively with professionals due to a language barrier can be heartbreaking. These are not easy discussions for anybody to have, but they can be much more challenging for people who may not share a common language with a potential provider. But things are changing for the better, and minority groups in the U.S. are slowly becoming more open to getting mental health care when they need it.

Mental Health Resources for the Hispanic Community:

NAMI’s Compartiendo Esperanza

Lack of information surrounding mental health issues can prevent people in Hispanic/Latinx communities from getting the help and support they need.

Compartiendo Esperanza is a three-part video series that explores the journey of mental wellness in Hispanic/Latinx communities through dialogue, storytelling and a guided discussion on the following topics:

  • Youth and Mental Wellness: “Sanando Juntos”/“Healing Together”

  • Community Leaders and Mental Wellness: “Las Raíces de Nuestra Sanación”/“The Roots of Our Healing”

  • Latinx Families and Mental Wellness: “La Mesa”/“The Table”

American Society of Hispanic Psychiatry

Promotes the research, education, advocacy and support for those in the Hispanic community. Offers a Find a Physician feature on their website.

Therapy for Latinx

A database of therapists who either identify as Latinx or has worked closely with and understands the unique needs of the Latinx community. The website is also offered in Spanish.

Latinx Therapy

A database for Latinx individuals seeking a diversity of mental health and wellness resources, courses and workshops. The website also offers a national directory to help find a therapist and navigate the patient/client-mental health provider journey.

Mental Health America’s Resources for Latinx/Hispanic Communities

General mental health Spanish-speaking resources, including a list of Spanish-language materials and Spanish-language screening tools.

Psychology Today

A directory of Hispanic/Latinx therapists.

Written by

Jose Caballero

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