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Bridging the gap in mental health awareness among Hispanics

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Discussing Mental Health & Substance Abuse with Your Spanish Speaking Family Members

In the Latino community, substance abuse and mental health are not topics frequently discussed and people are often shamed because of their issues.  

When you look at the rate of these issues and disorders among Latinos in Florida and around the country, it’s apparent that Latino families need to be having conversations about these topics. Pretending that people in the Latino community don’t suffer from these problems only exacerbates the problem.

However, it can be challenging to convey the severity to monolingual Spanish speakers. Spanish-speaking people are more likely to be uneducated about these issues when living in a primarily English-speaking country. If you are part of a Spanish-speaking family, it’s important to talk to your loved ones about these issues in the Latino community.

The Rate of Addiction and Mental Health Disorders in the Latino Community

Statistically speaking, the rate of addiction and substance abuse among Latinos is lower than for the United States population.

According to SAMHSA’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health, over 3 million Latinos suffer from a substance abuse disorder, and nearly 7 million suffer from a mental health disorder. A report from the Florida Department of Health found that over 10% of Hispanic men and more than 12% of Hispanic women reported having poor mental health that affects their daily life.

Educating Your Spanish-speaking Family

In Latino culture, mental health and addiction aren’t openly discussed. Although these issues are more widely accepted in the United States, Spanish speakers who live in Florida aren’t necessarily aware of these conversations due to the language barrier. If you’re part of a Spanish-speaking family, it’s important to educate your family members about mental health and substance abuse issues in the Latino community.

Start the conversation by explaining that mental health and addiction are growing concerns in the United States, especially among young people. Please talk about the risk factors and explain that anyone can develop mental health issues regardless of their age, ethnicity, or education level. It’s also important to reinforce the fact that talking about your feelings and emotions is healthy, and when you keep your feelings bottled up, it can lead to more serious consequences in the future.

If you live with your Spanish-speaking family members, make it a priority to ask them how they’re feeling from time-to-time, and encourage them to check in on their friends and loved ones. Share resources for Spanish speakers about the common signs of depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. We recommend checking out SAMHSA’s website for helpful resources that are written in Spanish. 

Finding Mental Health and Substance Abuse Treatment for Spanish Speakers

One of the most important reasons to discuss addiction and mental health with your Spanish-speaking family members is to educate them about treatment. According to SAMHSA, of the 3.3 million Latinos who struggle with addiction, only 10% get professional treatment. Of the nearly 7 million Latino adults who have a mental health disorder, only about 33% get treatment.

The English-Spanish language barrier is one of the biggest reasons most Latinos don’t get treatment for their substance abuse or mental health issues. Either they can’t find a treatment center in their area, or they can’t find a treatment center with Spanish-speaking counselors. This is a serious issue in states with a large Latino population, like Florida. 

It’s extremely beneficial for monolingual Spanish-speakers to have a bilingual family member who can help them understand their treatment options and help them find an appropriate treatment facility if needed. As of 2018, there were 726 in-state treatment centers located across Florida, and many of them can serve Spanish-speaking clients.

miami view - Bridging the gap in mental health awareness among Hispanics

Addiction and mental health treatments in Florida are available, regardless of where you live or what language you speak. Educating your Spanish-speaking family members about substance abuse and mental health and encouraging open conversations on these topics within your household should be prioritized. Communicating as a family is one of the most effective ways to break the stigma around mental health and substance abuse in the Latino community.

To learn more about The Recovery Village and their locations visit their website

Opinion piece by By Michael Crisanto,

M.A, The Recovery Village

Michael Crisanto - Bridging the gap in mental health awareness among HispanicsMichael Crisanto, M.A., is a Community Outreach Specialist at The Recovery Village, specializing in helping individuals find substance abuse and mental health treatment. Michael has over 10 years of experience working in behavioral health including roles in suicide prevention, outpatient counseling, forensics, medication-assisted treatment (MAT), and case management. Michael received his Master of Clinical Psychology from the University of Central Florida and received his Bachelors of Psychology from the University of Florida. Prior to joining ARS, Michael served as a Suicide Prevention Specialist, partnering with behavioral health organizations, hospital systems, schools, and agencies to implement best-practice guidelines and provide evidence-based trainings in suicide prevention, intervention, and postvention. Michael has also served as a mental health counselor, provided individual and group counseling to adults in an outpatient setting. Michael is bilingual in Spanish and English and is proud to serve the Florida community.

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