Recent statistics regarding mental health struggles in America are frightening. And the numbers are even more alarming among minorities, especially the Latino community. 

Currently, there are nearly 10 million Latinos in the U.S. living with mental health issues. Even worse, only 20% of Latinos with symptoms of a psychological disorder will talk to their doctor about it. Just 10% will reach out to a mental health professional, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America

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The disparity in mental healthcare is very real 

Research shows that 35.1% of Latino adults with mental health problems receive treatment each year. In the U.S., the average is 46.2%. This is due to many unique barriers to care, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness

From language barriers to culturally competent care and the deep-rooted stigma around mental health issues, Latinos face many disparities. These obstacles are often so difficult to overcome that people suffer in silence rather than reaching out for help.

The good news is that things are changing. Lawmakers, leaders, and medical professionals are all working to put a spotlight on Latino mental health struggles.

This past July, a trio of Latinos in Congress — Sens. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Calif. and Rep. Grace Napolitano, D-Calif. — announced they were introducing a piece of legislation. The Mental Health for Latinos Act seeks to address cultural stigma around mental health and to fix health care disparities.  

“We’ve been for 20 years trying to get attention […] on Latino mental health,” Napolitano told “NBC News.” She explained that the legislation aims to “develop and implement outreach and education strategies to promote mental health services and reduce the stigma of using them, as well as identify gaps and involve consumers and community members in addressing them.”

FIERCE spoke with Latina therapists to better understand this disparity and what needs to happen for a cultural shift around mental wellness. Here is what they want the Latino community to really understand about mental health.

Seeking help is NOT a sign of weakness

“One of the biggest myths regarding mental health in the Latinx community is the misconception that seeking help for mental health issues is a sign of weakness or lack of faith,” explained Dr. Yanira Hernandez of Pa’lante Therapy, Inc. “This stereotype can prevent individuals from seeking the support and treatment they need, leading to unaddressed mental health issues and potentially more significant challenges down the road.” 

There is also a fear of how others will perceive you if you admit to having mental health issues. 

“There’s often a belief that one must have a severe problem to seek therapy or assistance, which can deter individuals from reaching out for support,” shared Dr. Lisette Sanchez, PhD, Licensed Psychologist and founder of Calathea Wellness. “Additionally, there’s a fear of judgment from others within the community. Many Latinas may worry about what others will say if they seek therapy or openly discuss their mental health struggles,” she told FIERCE. 

There is also the fear of not being strong enough

“Although the Latinx community is non-monolithic, one shared cultural value is the idea of family unity and strength. Being considered ‘hard-working, brave, or fuerte (tough)’ is often a badge of honor,” explained Dr. Hernandez. “As a consequence, an individual struggling with their mental health may avoid seeking support due to fear of being labeled ‘loco’ or afraid of being viewed as weak or ‘de mente debil’ (mentally unfit or weak mind).”

There’s also the stigma around sharing your problems, as opposed to keeping struggles private within the family, which historically is frowned upon in the Latino community. 

“Individuals in the Latinx community may not want to publicly discuss their challenges, which further stigmatizes going to therapy. A familiar phrase in the Latinx community is ‘la ropa sucia se lava en casa.’ This phrase refers to keeping […]  problems within the family or confined to the privacy of one’s home,” said Dr. Hernandez. 

We all need support, and self-care is crucial

Unfortunately, a perception many share within the Latino community is that people are supposed to be strong, resilient, and not in need of help. Because of those values, self-care, mental healthcare, and outside support are often not prioritized or accepted. And putting yourself first can be seen in a negative light. 

“Sometimes, the cultural value of putting others’ needs before their own can also play a role. The saying ‘no quiero quedar mal’ highlights the priority of pleasing others. Still, it’s important to shift this focus to ‘no quiero quedar mal conmigo’ and prioritize self-care and well-being,” explained Dr. Sanchez, also known as The First Gen Psychologist. 

“Mental health is fundamental to your well-being. Self-care is an essential practice that can contribute to mental wellness and healing,” stresses Dr. Sanchez. “It’s not selfish to prioritize your mental well-being; seeking support is a brave step toward healing. In fact, prioritizing your well-being makes you more capable of supporting others,” she told FIERCE.

“Therapy can be very helpful in many ways, and you don’t have to have a severe mental health diagnosis or psychosis in order to be in therapy. Therapy can be preventative, it can be a safe space where you can feel seen, and heard, and you can get support with everyday life,” adds Evelyn Mejia, LMFT, of La Mariposa Healing

That’s why representation matters, and culturally competent care is essential

Part of the problem is that it is often hard for Latinas to approach therapy with an open mind. This is in part because it has never felt like an option to them. The lack of culturally competent care that considers the unique nuances of being in the Latino community makes it very challenging for Latinas to access therapy services. 

“We should encourage open and honest conversations about mental health within nuestra comunidad, provide education on the importance of seeking help when needed, and work to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health issues,” urges Dr. Hernandez. “Culturally appropriate mental health resources and services should also be […] more accessible to ensure that nuestra gente can receive the support and treatment they require.”

Acknowledge your feelings and remember you are not alone

Remember, above all else, that you are not alone in this journey. 

“Acknowledging that you may be experiencing mental health issues can be difficult. However, it’s essential to recognize your feelings and emotions and understand that seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness,” said Dr. Hernandez. “To my fellow Latinas, no estan solas! You are not alone! Our mental health matters as much as our physical health.”

“Acknowledging that you are having difficulty managing certain stressors or experiences or wanting to seek therapy does not mean que estas loca o eres de mente débil. It is liberating, empowering, and brave,” she shared. 

Remember that mental health is an essential part of everyone’s life

“It’s crucial to break the stigma surrounding mental health in the Latinx community and offer support and understanding to those who seek help. Mental health challenges are common, and addressing them openly and compassionately benefits everyone,” added Dr. Sanchez. 

“In our culture and in our families, we are often shamed explicitly or implicitly for seeking support or sharing our struggles, but therapy is confidential, and again, it can be a safe space where you can get neutral support,” urged Evelyn Mejia. “Having connections and social support is important, and talking to a therapist can be helpful because it is a space that is not going to come with the biases that your friends or family often come with.” Through it all, you will be reminded that you are not alone in this journey. 

Just as everyone’s struggles are unique, everyone’s healing journey also looks different. “To me, sometimes it means accepting every single version of myself with compassion and grace,” shared Dr. Hernandez. “To my fellow Latina, un consejo: honor your healing journey, whichever direction it may be in this moment.”