Hispanic-Latino Mental Health

The Hispanic/ Latino community is made up of people from many different nationalities and races, and educational and socioeconomic levels. The common threads for most are the Spanish language and cultural values.

Culture and ethnicity can influence the way we think about mental illness and mental health services. For example, among some Latinos, depression may be mistaken for nervousness, tiredness or a physical ailment, and may be viewed as something temporary. Some research indicates that older Hispanic adults and Hispanic youth are especially vulnerable to the stresses of immigration and acculturation.

Mental illness is common and many individuals, including many Latinos, do not get the help they need often because of the stigma associated with mental illness.  For more information see the video below and the companion guidebook, Mental Health:  A Guide for Latinos and their families.

Latino Mental Health Video -  English

View the Video in Spanish

Cultural Issues

Many Hispanics/ Latinos rely on their extended family, community, traditional healers, and/ or churches for help during a health crisis. As a result, thousands of Hispanics/Latinos with mental illness often go without professional mental health treatment.

At-Risk Groups

Studies have shown that older Hispanic adults and youth are especially vulnerable to the stresses of immigration and acculturation. Many older Hispanic Americans find the strain of acculturation overwhelming. Their traditional values and beliefs are often at odds with the new culture, they may lack family support and may face language barriers. Hispanic/ Latino youth also have been found to be at risk for higher levels of emotional distress because of the pressures to rapidly adopt the values of their new culture as well as inequality, poverty, and discrimination. Studies have found that Hispanic/ Latino youth suffer from many of the same emotional problems created by marginalization and discrimination, but without the secure identity and traditional values held by their parents.

Access to Care

Lack of access to mental health services continues to be the most serious problem in the Hispanic/ Latino community. Hispanic Americans use mental-health services far less than other ethnic and racial groups. They also constitute the largest group of uninsured in the U.S.—further limiting access to care. While insurance plays a large role in accessing healthcare, culture and language are also significant barriers. The lack of interpreters and bilingual professionals can interfere with appropriate evaluation, treatment, and emergency response.

Hispanics/ Latinos often have different attitudes about accessing mental health services, and may feel highly stigmatized for doing so. For example, Hispanics/ Latinos often mistake depression for nervousness, tiredness, or even a physical ailment, and may see it as something that is temporary. Affected individuals may not recognize their symptoms as those that require the attention of mental health specialists. Access to culturally appropriate and effective care is critical given that Hispanics/ Latinos have been shown to suffer from mental illnesses or emotional disturbances at a higher rate than other groups.

Mental health services for Hispanics/ Latinos need to be responsive to cultural needs, and also provide appropriate linguistic support. With proper treatment, most symptoms of mental illnesses can be treated or controlled. If the possibility of mental illness is a concern for you or someone you care about consult your family doctor, psychiatrist or other mental health professional.




Mental Health: A Guide for Latinos and Their Families

Fact Sheet on Hispanic/Latino Mental Health