Blog: National Partnership for Action
Familias Moving Forward on Mental Health
Posted on 7/2/2014 by Mayra E Alvarez MHA, Associate Director, Office of Minority Health, US Department of Health and Human Services
I grew up in a large Latino family. On any given weekend, I would find my extended relatives over at our house—the kitchen steaming with food, kids running around, and multiple conversations happening. I had three sisters, but if you counted my aunts, uncles, and numerous primos and primas, we were anything but the average-sized family. I was lucky--I had a number of people to talk to about school and relationships, or worries or stresses I was feeling.
Having a support system of friends and family, especially in Latino families, is a helpful way to alleviate stress and live healthier. But sometimes, friends and family alone are not enough and it becomes necessary to seek professional help.
Within our community, there are often negative perceptions about mental health that can discourage people from seeking treatment. Latino youth have been found to be at risk for higher levels of emotional distress because of the pressures to rapidly adopt the values of their culture as well as inequality, poverty, and discrimination. In the United States, the prevalence of having seriously considered attempting suicide was higher among Hispanic students (18.9%) than whites (16.2%) and blacks (14.5%). The disparity was even more apparent among Latina students who were 1.2 times as likely as white female high school students to seriously consider attempting suicide, even going so far as to create a plan.
To encourage conversations in the Hispanic community and across the country about mental health problems, identifying needs, and helping individuals get treatment, I am proud to spread the word about a new website and toolkit developed by SAMHSA and available in English and Spanish. MentalHealth.gov and MentalHealth.gov en Español have information about prevention, treatment, and recovery from mental health conditions and can help individuals and communities access treatment and resources. The website focuses on the importance of talking about mental health and engaging parents, young people, Latino-serving advocates, and other community leaders in conversations about mental health.
The Toolkit for Community Conversations About Mental Health (Diálogos comunitarios acerca de la salud mental) supports community mental health and helps begin this important dialogue.
Check out these toolkit resources:
Talk to your familia about it today!
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About the Blog
The NPA works to achieve health equity -- the highest level of health for all people. This blog is a venue for professionals from all fields and sectors to share their thoughts on pressing issues, news and events pertaining to health equity. Follow and participate in this candid discussion.
About the Author
Mayra Alvarez is the Associate Director,Office of Minority Health, US Department of Health and Human Services.
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