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CW: Mention of Bipolar Disorder, mentions of depression and mania.

When I first asked my mother to see a therapist, I was 14. She looked at me with a bewildered look in her eye and proceeded to tell me “We’re Cuban, we don’t do therapy”. From that moment on, I was convinced that Hispanic people and my entire community had zero mental health issues. I felt like I was the only person of my heritage to experience the challenging highs and lows of my emotions. When I laid in bed for two weeks straight, my mother blamed my generation’s laziness. When I felt magically better and felt extreme euphoria, my mother told me it was part of being a dramatic teenager.

It wasn’t until I was 18 and in college when I went to therapy that I discovered that I was not alone in my experiences. The reality is that 8 million Hispanic individuals reported having mental health challenges (Murray et al.). Knowing that I shared this experience with 8 million people within my community comforted me and I knew that I was not alone. I started to wonder why my mother insisted Cuban people “don’t do therapy” if 8 million people in my community struggled with mental illness. This led me to research some of the reasons why not only my mother but generations before her, held these long-standing beliefs that therapy was not made for people like me.

I found that these beliefs stem from a variety of reasons, the main one being stigma. The stigma surrounding mental health in Hispanic communities is prevalent in and outside of Hispanic countries. The notion of therapy helping mitigate mental health challenges is a foreign concept to many, as it is considered taboo to talk about one’s feelings. The taboo nature comes from the idea that “emotions are a sign of weakness”. This paired with structural/institutional barriers for immigrants seeking medical treatment often result in the stigmatization of mental health within the Hispanic community.

Some of the reasons surrounding the origin of stigma in Hispanic populations include certain ancestral beliefs that mental illness is reflective of religious sentiments, weakness of the “soul”, and other cultural upbringings that resulted in a communal understanding that these issues are not to be spoken about (Grieb et al.). However, those 8 million people who have reported mental illness do not account for every person who may be undiagnosed or have not seen a mental health professional. Therefore, it is vital that people speak up and bring forward new information and break generational silence on the topic of mental health.

It is important that not only Hispanic individuals speak up for their communities, but allies stand up too. This helps ensure that individuals who are struggling are equipped with accurate information about mental illness and that resources are available to them. Hispanic mental health is important to take seriously as oftentimes, “sweeping things under the rug” has long-term effects on the overall health of people. If these generational beliefs are broken, more individuals can seek adequate care and learn to feel less alone in their struggles.

I now know I have bipolar I disorder and that I, a proud first-generation Cuban American, am able to seek mental health care and attend therapy. Without this knowledge and research, I would have continued to perpetuate false generational beliefs. I, along with the 8 million Hispanic individuals, need everyone’s help in breaking the stigma and forging a path where every person regardless of ethnicity has knowledge and access to mental health services.

Works Cited:

Grieb SM, Platt R, Vazquez MG, Alvarez K, Polk S. Mental Health Stigma Among Spanish-Speaking Latinos in Baltimore, Maryland. J Immigr Minor Health. 2023 Oct;25(5):999-1007. doi: 10.1007/s10903-023-01488-z. Epub 2023 May 22. PMID: 37213041; PMCID: PMC10201042.

Traci M. Murray. (n.d.). Using cuento to support the behavioral health needs of Hispanic/latinos. SAMHSA.,impacted%20their%20ability%20to%20function.


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