Leticia Arellano-Morales, associate professor of psychology, discussed “Latina/o Mental and Physical Health” Tuesday in the President’s Dining Room.
The talk began with a look into Arellano-Morales’ own life when she told the story of her “crazy cousin Becky” who suffers from bipolar disorder and is now institutionalized.
“Only one in 11 Latinos with mental health disorders seek mental health treatment,” Arellano-Morales said. “We’re talking about a population that is approximately 56 million.”
A major issue regarding mental health treatment is the fact that health insurance is so important, yet so many families and individuals are going without it due to poverty, Arellano-Morales said.
“If you don’t have health insurance, what’s the likelihood that you’re going to pursue mental health treatment? Very minimal,” Arellano-Morales said.
She said a large poor family is not likely to have access to affordable mental health treatment.
There are factors besides traditional mental health services that help prevent the progression of mental illnesses, Arellano-Morales said.
“Familismo,” or an emphasis on the importance of family, as well as embracing one’s ethnic identity, and spirituality are important in promoting and maintaining mental health, Arellano-Morales said.
But with protective factors, there are also risk factors such as discrimination, difficulty adjusting to the unfamiliar culture around an individual and poverty, Arellano-Morales said.
Along gender lines, Latinas are more likely to be depressed but also more likely to seek treatment than their male counterparts.
Latinos are more likely to have substance abuse issues.
“When we look at issues of immigration, issues of health or identity, all of those factors really are associated with Latino mental health,” Arellano-Morales said.
Some students said they were surprised at the finding that “familismo” was seen as a protective factor, because they experienced the opposite in their family lives.
“I was actually really surprised when I saw that the ‘familismo’ was a protective factor rather than a risk factor because I’ve noticed in my family, they put more pressure to not feel sad or anything like that,” said Angela Gonzalez, sophomore biology major.
“It’s a shame to the family,” added Mayra Abrego, sophomore psychology major.
Sean Backer, sophomore biology major, said he could understand why “familismo” was seen as a protective factor regarding mental illness.
“I do feel like it’s definitely a protective factor, too. You have some sort of community,” Backer said. “You have a sense of support, in case you’re experiencing a lot of stress you have a sort of relief factor.”
Backer shared his thoughts regarding the portrayal of concern, or lack thereof, within society in the U.S. and its relation to mental illness.
“I feel like there are a lot of things in our own society which are concealed a lot, and that are angled in different ways,” Backer said.
Jocelyn Arceo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.