Hispanic Heritage Month is a time to celebrate

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Hispanic Heritage Month is a time to celebrate, reflect and highlight the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.

It is celebrated from September 15th through October 15th. September 15th holds special significance as the anniversary of independence for several Latin American countries.

On September 14, 2020 President Donald J. Trump issued a Proclamation on National Hispanic Heritage Month.

The fabric of America wouldn’t be the same without the contributions of more than 60 million Hispanic Americans heroes like Sonia Sotomayor, the first Hispanic (and third woman) to serve as Supreme Court Justice, or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the youngest congresswoman in US history.

According to NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Latino and Hispanic communities show similar vulnerability to mental illness as the white population, however, they face disparities in both access to and the quality of treatment. This inequality puts these communities at a higher risk for more severe and persistent forms of mental health conditions, because without treatment, mental health conditions often worsen.

Approximately 33% of Hispanic or Latino adults with mental illness receive treatment each year compared to the U.S. average of 43%. This is due to the barriers of language, access to health insurance coverage, lack of cultural competency, legal status, and stigma.

Common mental health disorders among Latinos are anxiety disorder, major depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and alcoholism. While Latino communities have a susceptibility to mental illness as other populations, they experience health disparities that affect the way they receive mental health care such as the access and quality of treatment. Only 20% of Latinos who experience symptoms of psychological disorders talk to a doctor about their symptoms, and only 10% contact a mental health professional. (NCBI, National Center for Biotechnology Information).

There is a lack of understanding regarding mental heath as talking about emotions is not a common part of the culture, which increases the stigma associated with mental illness. Language is a barrier because many medical professionals do not speak Spanish and those that do may not understand the cultural issues Latinos face.

It is important to find a provider who demonstrates cultural competence – the ability to understand, communicate with and effectively interact with people across cultures. It is also being aware of one’s own world view while developing positive attitudes towards cultural differences, gaining knowledge of different cultural practices.

Research has shown the lack of cultural competence in mental health care leads to misdiagnosis and inadequate treatment. 

Detroit Wayne Integrated Health Network (DWIHN) and its Provider Network of over 400 organizations are trained annually on Cultural Competency and Diversity.

Its Providers supports and serves individuals with serious mental illness, children with serious emotional disturbance, people with autism, individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and those with substance use disorders. 

If you or someone you know needs assistance, call the 24/7 HelpLine at 1-800-241-4949.


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