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How to overcome stigma and break the silence on mental health in the latin community

October 10, 2023
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The conversation about mental health has advanced considerably in recent years, but stigmas and misunderstandings persist around this topic. Overcoming stigma starts with understanding that mental health is integral to overall health. We all face emotional challenges at some point in our lives, and that’s okay. Breaking the silence involves recognizing that seeking help is not a sign of weakness, but of courage and self-awareness.

Sharing your experiences and emotions with friends, family, or mental health professionals can be a liberating step. By doing so, you can inspire others to do the same and contribute to the creation of a more understanding and supportive society in relation to mental health.

Stigmatizing Language on Mental Health

Language has significant power to influence our perceptions and attitudes. Referring to people who struggle with mental health issues in a negative or derogatory way perpetuates stigma. Instead of using stigmatizing terms like “crazy,” “lazy,” “nervous,” or “unbalanced,” we can opt for more neutral and respectful expressions.

For example, instead of saying “he’s crazy,” we can say “he’s facing mental health challenges.” Inclusive and respectful language contributes to an environment in which people feel comfortable sharing their experiences and seeking support.

Most of us are not well informed about mental health, and we are guided by the belief that psychological therapy, for example, is for crazy people, and not for people who may simply suffer from a problem in everyday life.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness proposes these measures to reduce mental health stigma:

  • Talking openly about mental health.
  • Educate yourself and others about mental health.
  • Promote the idea that poor physical and mental health are equal.
  • Know language that can be stigmatizing, such as the terms “crazy,” “insane,” or “psychotic.”
  • Inform the media when they are promoting negative stigma.
  • Show compassion towards people with mental health conditions.

We can all have mental health problems. Knowing how to find resources to solve them is a sign of your intelligence, not weakness.

Signs of Mental Health Problems

Recognizing the warning signs of mental health problems is essential to providing support to those in need. Some of these signs may include changes in behavior, such as social isolation, loss of interest in activities they once enjoyed, and difficulty concentrating. Intense and persistent emotions, such as sadness, anxiety, or irritability, can also be indicators.

It’s critical to remember that every individual is unique, and the signs of mental health problems can vary. If you notice significant changes in someone’s behavior or emotional well-being, offering your support and encouraging them to seek professional help is an important step.

Symptoms of depression may include:

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Appetite problems
  • Memory problems
  • Concentration problems
  • Loss of interest in people, places, or situations that previously interested you
  • Irritability
  • Isolation

Instead, anxiety symptoms can be:

  • Despair
  • Restlessness
  • Chest pressure
  • Exaggerated palpitations
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Fear of dying

Or signs that someone is considering suicide may include:

  • Sudden changes in the way of being.
  • Isolation
  • Comments that he finds no purpose in life.
  • Phrases that imply discontent with their reality
  • Poor hygiene

Family Communication and Mental Health

For many Latino families, talking about mental health can be challenging due to cultural factors and deep-rooted traditions. However, promoting open dialogue is critical to breaking stigma and providing support. To start this conversation, it’s helpful to approach the topic with empathy and understanding.

Exploring the importance of mental health in the context of the family and explaining that seeking help is not a sign of weakness can pave the way for more open communication. Actively listening to the concerns of your parents and loved ones and giving them accurate information about mental health can also be beneficial.

How to Talk to Your Latino Parents About Your Mental Health

Talking to your Latino parents about your mental health can be a significant step toward understanding and supporting each other. Start the conversation with compassion and patience, and highlight the importance of their support to your well-being. Explain how mental health is a crucial part of your life and how seeking help can make a difference.

Not all people choose to share their mental healing processes with their parents, and this choice is completely valid. The decision whether to do so depends on your comfort level when addressing the topic, the receptivity of your parents, and the relevance of this conversation to your own process.

It’s also important to recognize that, in some cases, your family members may have had a negative impact on your mental health. In these situations, it is critical to cultivate compassion towards your mistakes while remaining aware and accepting of your own reality. It’s important to remember that we are all the product of our own experiences and hurts, and this can influence how we interact with others.

Mental and Emotional Health Resources for the Latino Community


(Information from La Red Hispana)

We end this article by reminding you that you are not alone and that you can always seek help from a professional when you are facing challenges with your mental health. Help us make this cause visible with other immigrants who may need it.