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11/7/2011 – Barriers to Treatment in the Latino Community

November 7, 2011


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According to this article, depression and other mental health disorders affect an equal portion of both Latinos and whites. Research has shown that while up to 60 percent of non-Hispanic whites actively seek treatment when suffering from mental illness, only 36 percent of people of Hispanic descent will reach out for treatment when confronted with a mental illness.

Much like untreated diabetes or cancer, untreated mental illness is a medical condition that can have long-lasting physical, social, and emotional consequences that can greatly worsen over time. While mental illness (like any illness) is not the fault or choice of the sufferer, treatment is a powerful choice an individual can make to greatly improve their situation. In fact, research shows that between 70-90% of people suffering from depression and other mental illnesses improve significantly with a combination of treatments such as medication and/or psychotherapy.  So, why would anyone delay their recovery from a mental illness by avoiding treatment?

There are several serious barriers that exist within the Latino community. Perhaps the most important is the cultural stigma and misunderstanding that often surrounds mental health conditions among Latinos. There is a widely held belief that mental illness is the result of a being weak-willed or crazy, or is perhaps even the result of being spiritually possessed. While it is very important to be sensitive to cultural and spiritual beliefs, it is still important to recognize that science shows us that mental illness is caused by factors that are out of the control of those afflicted. While willpower and folk-healing (such as that provided by espiritualistas) may be an important part of recovery for many, we know that these approaches alone cannot restore imbalances of brain chemistry or integrate traumatic memory. Skilled professionals who have been trained in modern treatment modalities are a vital part of recovery for anyone suffering from mental illness, regardless of cultural or spiritual background. The best treatment for any individual is one that incorporates the support of their social and family group, spiritual community, cultural beliefs, and high quality therapeutic treatment modalities that are medically proven to help.

If you are in need of counseling and/or a mental health evaluation, please visit the Community Counseling Centers of Chicago (C4) website at or call them at 773-769-0205.

If your needs are related to a Perinatal Mood Disorder, please call HAS at 773-292-4242 to schedule an evaluation today. You will be treated by one of our compassionate, caring and non-judgmental therapists whose main concern is your wellbeing.

By Melina Mejia Stock

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