Why Is There A Mental Health Crisis Affecting Latina Girls?

May is Mental Health Awareness month. A month where we aim to bring down the stigma around mental illnesses, and where we validate everyone’s mental state because we all experience mental illnesses differently. Plenty of people suffer through mental illnesses every day, but I came across a video by Vice where I learned that Latinas are the group with the highest rates of anxiety and depression. Not to say that other groups do not struggle with their mental health, but why is it that Latinas are experiencing these illnesses at higher rates than their male counterparts and white females? While watching the video, I realized that there are things that some Latinas have to worry about that I do not, but also that there are some similarities among us that contribute to the poor state of our mental health. I wanted to share the stories of some Latinas and mine as well in order to help destigmatize mental health and let you know that you are never alone! But before that, I would like to say that there are some sensitive topics that will be mentioned that may trigger some of you.

A photo of scrabble words assembled to spell uploaded to Pixabay by Wokandapix, but credit/attribution not required.

 

In the video, The Kids Are Not Alright: The Mental Health Crisis Affecting Latina Teens, the host Paola visit Milwaukee to talk to teenage Latinas about their experiences and how they have resulted in them having anxiety, depression, and trying to commit suicide. First, we hear about Brenda’s story as she experiences breakdowns and anxiety as a result of the trauma she experienced from seeing her father being wrongfully arrested. Brenda adds that she is a first generation Latina, so she has had to do many firsts in her family and also feels the pressure to do things right. Something that stood out to me about Brenda’s story is that she worries about the immigration status of her mother, who is undocumented. The issue of immigration status has not been a huge issue in my family, thankfully, because my parents and brother are now citizens of the U.S., but to think that they could be separated from me at any moment had they not become citizens breaks me. I could not imagine living life in the U.S. during my teenage years without my parents, but this is an issue that many Latinas and youth face. This adds to their anxiety and depression. 

 

The next story is Anais’ who is also from a mixed immigration family, with her parents undocumented, but her siblings and herself born in the U.S. Anais attempted suicide after having a negative experience on social media, getting comments telling her that she could kill herself because of a falling out with another girl. Anais said she felt helpless. Anais’ mother explained that mental health is a taboo in the Latinx culture, as it is not talked about and is seen as an emotion that can be turned off. I agree with Anais’ mother.Iit took me years to realize that I had anxiety because it was something I had never heard about, since my parents never mentioned mental illnesses to me, and when I wanted to talk to my mom about it, I did not know how to. Anais’ mother also added that it is hard being a Latina in America because you have to fit in American culture while trying to accept who you are.

 

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In the video, Paola makes a trip to SEEDS, a clinic that helps young girls by giving them a safe space to talk about their mental struggles; she also gets to talk with Dr. Carolina Hausmann-Stabile. During this visit, we learn that getting access to mental health resources is not easy, with some of the girls having to drive an hour away to a safe space. Dr. Hausmann-Stabile points out that Latina teens carry a lot of responsibility, such as having undocumented parents, being first-generation, adolescence, politics, and American culture blaming Latinos as well as stigmatizing being Latinx. These things make them more susceptible to anxiety. When asked if they found it surprising that Latinas having rising numbers of depression and anxiety, the girls at SEED said no because Latinas have to bottle up their fears as well as endure cultural stress, and racism.

Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash

 

I have to say that although these girls are younger than me, I still see myself in them. I experienced some of their fears as well, I also feel the pressure to be the perfect Latina daughter and am negatively affected by social media. It is disheartening to see that young women feel these things at their age. and even worse that they do not always have a safe space or someone to talk to about these things. They feel hopeless and find it hard to see a way out. As Dr. Hausmann-Stabile says, public health needs to become a priority. We need to see easier and better access to medical resources. 

 

Some advice that Brenda and Anais shared was that you should get help even if your family thinks you are crazy, and to find value as well as strength within yourself! You are amazing and worthy of every beautiful thing this world has to offer. You are more than your mental illness! If you ever need help, reach out to your friends and family. Some of them can be a great support system once you open up to them about your struggles. But for those who can’t find comfort there, you can also reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.