People within Latinx communities in the United States may experience challenges with their mental health. They may be at risk of negative mental health outcomes due to encountering stigma, healthcare barriers, and disparities.

The term Latinx typically refers to people of Latin American cultural or ethnic identity. The Latinx community in the U.S. is very diverse and comprises roughly 60.5 million people, or 18.5% of the population.

For those in this community, mental health is often a stigmatized topic. Additionally, they may face many unique barriers that can affect access to healthcare services, all of which can be detrimental to their mental health.

In this article, we will discuss notable mental health conditions that are prevalent in the Latinx community.

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Evidence suggests that more than 16%, or approximately 10 million people, in the U.S. Latinx community report having a mental health condition. Research also indicates that serious mental health conditions among the Hispanic population are increasing.

Despite this increase, many people within the Latinx community do not receive treatment, largely due to disparities in both the access and quality of treatment.

Compared with the U.S. average of 45%, around 34% of Latinx adults with a mental health condition receive treatments. Latinx people are less likely to obtain treatment due to obstacles such as:

  • language barriers
  • poverty
  • stigma

This inequity puts Latinx communities at further risk, as mental health conditions often worsen without treatment.

Mental health stigma can negatively influence how people perceive and treat mental health conditions. This may be particularly true in Latin American communities, as research indicates they may hold prejudices toward those with mental health conditions.

Because elements of Latinx culture may harbor negative attitudes toward mental health, it could discourage and prevent people from seeking help due to fear of discrimination or bringing shame to their family.

These negative attitudes may be why research from 2017 suggests that Hispanic communities living in the U.S. may perceive a lower need for mental health care. A 2019 study notes that Latinx populations access mental health care at roughly half the rate of non-Hispanic white people in the U.S.

Click here to learn more about mental health stigma in Latin America.

Research from Mental Health America highlights increases in major depressive episodes among Hispanic people of all ages between 2015 and 2018. Additionally, a 2018 study mentions that Latinx people are significantly more likely to experience serious depression than white people.

A 2014 study highlights that the prevalence of depressive symptoms can also vary due to multiple factors, such as a person’s Hispanic background. The research suggests that people with a Puerto Rican background may be at the highest risk of depressive symptoms.

A survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) taken at the beginning of the pandemic notes that symptoms of depression were higher in Hispanic adults.

Click here to learn more about depression and Hispanic culture.

Evidence suggests that anxiety is a common mental health condition among the Latinx community. Similar to depression, the 2014 study suggests that anxiety is more prevalent in people of Puerto Rican background, but factors such as age, education, and relationship status can also affect the prevalence.

Some research suggests increasing rates of anxiety disorders among Hispanic youth and older Latinx adults who have no religious affiliation. A 2020 study exploring healthcare use among uninsured Latinx people notes that anxiety disorders accounted for 16% of mental health diagnoses.

Evidence notes that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is another prevalent mental health condition among the Latinx community, likely as a result of the difficulties and discrimination they may experience.

A 2019 article highlights a higher prevalence of PTSD in the Latinx community, again attributing this to sociocultural stressors. Race-related stressors, such as acculturative stress and race-based traumatic stress, can negatively affect both physical and mental health.

Results from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) 2019 national survey on drug use and health highlight that 7% of Hispanic adults in the U.S., or 2.9 million, had a substance use disorder (SUD). Among those, 1.4 million had both a SUD and a mental health condition.

Evidence notes that alcohol use disorder is a common mental health condition among Latinx, with some sources noting that Hispanic adolescents are more likely to start using alcohol than Black and Asian youth. However, despite this, nearly 90% of Latinx people over the age of 12 years with a SUD did not receive treatment.

While many barriers may prevent Latinx people from seeking or accessing mental health care, help is available.

Some people may prefer to speak with a mental health professional who understands Latinx culture. People can directly ask mental health professionals about their cultural awareness. Alternatively, people can ask their doctor for a referral or speak with community and faith organizations who may be able to supply a list of local mental health professionals.

If English is not a person’s preferred language, they can contact a mental health professional who can communicate in Spanish or arrange to have an interpreter.

Potential mental health resources that could be useful for Latinx people may include:

Research from SAMHSA notes that the rate of suicidal thoughts and behaviors is increasing in the Hispanic community. If anyone believes that a person is at immediate risk of suicide, get help as soon as possible.

People can access free, confidential assistance from trained professionals via national hotlines. These hotlines are available 24 hours per day and may help those experiencing mental health difficulties or anyone who may benefit from discussing their feelings.

Suicide prevention

If you know someone at immediate risk of self-harm, suicide, or hurting another person:

  • Ask the tough question: “Are you considering suicide?”
  • Listen to the person without judgment.
  • Call 911 or the local emergency number, or text TALK to 741741 to communicate with a trained crisis counselor.
  • Stay with the person until professional help arrives.
  • Try to remove any weapons, medications, or other potentially harmful objects if it’s safe to do so.

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, a prevention hotline can help. The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is available 24 hours a day at 988. During a crisis, people who are hard of hearing can use their preferred relay service or dial 711 then 988.

Find more links and local resources.

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Individuals within Latinx communities living in the U.S. may experience difficulties with their mental health. Many stressors can arise due to stigma, disparities, and discrimination. These factors may not only contribute to poorer mental health, but they may also create barriers to accessing sufficient mental health care.

However, despite these barriers, resources are available that can help people receive appropriate support. In some cases, it may be beneficial for people to seek and engage in culturally sensitive mental health care to help manage their mental health.