On Nov. 8, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy and University of Texas at Austin alum Matthew McConaughey visited UT Austin to discuss the issue of loneliness in society and making connections with others. Dr. Murthy mentioned that college students and young adults experience some of the highest rates of loneliness and isolation, which led him to create and embark on his campus tours, called the We Are Made To Connect tour.
In their conversation, Dr. Murthy and McConaughey delved into their initial encounters with the loneliness epidemic. McConaughey, for instance, shared how he first experienced loneliness while studying abroad in Australia after high school. His expectations of Australia were quickly shattered when he realized he was living hours away from major cities and with a family he didn’t know. As their discussion progressed, they explored the challenges that emerged when they had to balance their own personal lives between family and their professional responsibilities. Dr. Murthy specifically discussed the challenges he faced when he began to realize that he was prioritizing his career over relationships, ultimately resulting in feelings of loneliness. In the midst of their conversation about the challenges of balancing personal and professional life, Dr. Murthy and McConaughey’s reflections prompted me to consider its relevance within the Latinx community. This led me to contemplate the significance of familísmo in our culture.
In Latinx culture, there’s a concept known as “familísmo,” which involves dedicating your loyalty and commitment to your family, which can extend even to your professional life. While this practice may sound beneficial, the integration of family and work can raise feelings of obligation and fear of disappointment to many. In a 2019 report from Utah State University, higher levels of familísmo served as a risk factor for adolescents to report higher levels of anxiety and depression. Based on personal experiences and observations within my community, there’s an emphasis on prioritizing the wellbeing of your family over everything, even if it requires personal sacrifice. Many of our immigrant parents did this for us, so it only makes sense to reciprocate it… right?
This cultural practice can not only introduce career-related pressures to make the right choices that align with your family’s expectations, but in my opinion, also introduce a burden to suppress personal emotions to prevent any discomfort or frustration from family. This can create complex challenges for many Latinx children to balance both familial responsibilities and career expectations.
Toward the end of the discussion, Dr. Murthy highlighted the importance of building relationships with your friends and family. Dr. Murthy said the maintenance of relationships fosters connection, which allows us to express gratitude, offer support to one another, and be able to seek help from those in our lives.
“We are here together, we are clear we have each other’s backs and support one another. The heart of building a fulfilling life is building these relationships.”
It is important to be there for one another, ensuring that no one feels alone and that we are doing well. It’s these mental health practices that, in my opinion, the Latinx culture should embrace and normalize. Mental health in Latinx culture has often been stigmatized as “different” and “unusual.” By incorporating the insights shared by Dr. Murthy, there exists a potential to break down the stigma surrounding mental health within the Latinx community.