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Depression in the Latino Community

depression in the latino community

Research has shown that only about 30% of Latinos will seek treatment for mental illness. Many people in the Latino community can face unique challenges that make it harder to get mental health treatment and services.

Research carried out by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) discovered that some of the more common mental health conditions Latinos are diagnosed with include:

  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Anxiety disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Borderline personality disorder (BPD)

Despite the Latino community experiencing higher rates of mental illness, the rates of treatment for these individuals still remain extremely low.

Why are Depression Treatment Rates So Low in the Latino Community?

Talking about depressive feelings is not part of the Latino culture, especially for men. The typical view men have about themselves, which they have learned from their fathers, grandfathers, great-grandfathers, etc., is that of machismo and manly-ism.

Latino men are expected to provide for their families, be the head of the household, and show strength. Depression is viewed as a sign of weakness. Being diagnosed with depression can bring shame on the man and their family. 

Additionally, discussing private family matters outside the household is highly discouraged within the Latino culture. Seeing a psychiatrist or psychologist can be frowned upon because one is sharing private family matters with a stranger. 

Furthermore, many people in the Latino community may not fully recognize the signs and symptoms of depression. They may mistake depression for an illness or other medical condition. 

Again, men are often taught that if they are feeling depressed or sad, they need to simply get over it because this is not masculine and shows weakness. Rather than seek help, men will bottle up those feelings or push them aside as best as they can. 

How Do Latinos Deal with Depression?

To understand how Latinos deal with depression, it is important to understand how their culture contributes to the stigma depression carries in their community. Even women are expected to take care of the family, prepare meals, and help maintain the household above their personal feelings. 

As a result, many Latinos turn to self-treatment options. Some Latinos will turn to religion for guidance and support for their depressive symptoms and feelings. They pray to ask to be given the strength to overcome these feelings. 

Alternatively, self-medicating is another avenue Latinos pursue. Drinking alcohol is widely accepted. Even when turning to alcohol, drugs may also be used to help self-medicate and alleviate symptoms of depression. 

Does Self-Medicating for Depression Lead to Addiction?

Many Latinos can consume high volumes of alcohol and drink more often when compared with non-Latinos. The more alcohol consumed, the greater its effects, such as:

  • Lowered inhibitions
  • Increased risk-taking
  • Slowed responses
  • Positive feelings like happiness and joy
  • A sense of calm and relaxation  

Drinking usually masks the symptoms of depression. However, to continue to mask these symptoms, larger and larger volumes of alcohol must be consumed. Furthermore, alcoholism addiction rates are much higher in the Latino community. 

When it comes to self-medicating with drugs, the concept is similar. The drugs help cover up depressive symptoms and feelings. When they reappear, more drugs are taken, resulting in an endless cycle that can eventually lead to substance abuse and addiction. 

Even worse is when Latinos drink and use drugs to self-treat their depression. This is a dangerous situation to get into because the effects of certain drugs are heightened when drinking alcohol. Unfortunately, the wrong combination of drugs and alcohol could lead to death.  

As a result, self-medicating one’s depression can lead to addiction and substance abuse disorders. However, it is worth mentioning that substance abuse and addiction can also lead to depression. 

What Stops Latinos from Getting Help for Depression? 

Aside from the cultural stigmas associated with depression and mental illnesses, there are other reasons Latinos are hesitant to get help with depression and addiction. For starters, they are afraid if anyone outside the immediate family finds out, it will affect their standing in the community. 

For men, if their peers in the Latino community learn they are depressed, have an addiction, or a co-occurring disorder, it can be embarrassing for them. They do not want to be viewed as weak or inferior to other Latino men. 

Another issue arises when there is a language barrier and treatment services are not offered in Spanish. Spanish or bilingual mental health and addiction treatment professionals are essential to helping the Latino community break down cultural norms about depression. 

Lastly, misdiagnosis is a common occurrence for Latinos with depression. Out of fear of being diagnosed depressed, they only share the physical symptoms of depression with their family physician. 

Depression and Addiction Treatment for Men in Dallas

At Casa Colina, we are committed to equipping Latino men and their families with the tools to overcome depression and achieve a lifetime of freedom in sobriety. We provide access to customized addiction and co-occurring treatment programs at our facility in Dallas using a variety of services, including peer support and family programs. 

Please feel free to contact us today for further information about our Dallas depression and addiction treatment programs for men! 

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