Mental and emotional illness, including depression, anxiety, and related disorders, do not discriminate. With an estimated 300 million people worldwide living with depression, most people know someone battling the condition. Any many are struggling alone, as the fear of the stigma associated with mental illness keeps them from seeking the help they need and deserve. The healthcare system has also long separated physical and emotional health. But it’s time for that to change. It’s time for all of us to speak up and to treat the whole person because how we feel emotionally can have a big impact on how we heal physically.
Mental Illness and the Latino Community
The latino community is affected by mental illness at similar rates as other populations. But there is no doubt that there are still significant differences in attitudes, stigma, concerns about privacy, and access to high quality treatment for mental health. This inequality is a problem we need to solve. The non-profit National Alliance on Mental Illness reports that 1 in 5 adults in America experience mental illness, and that 60% of those in need do not receive treatment. Hispanics tend to access care at much lower rates than other communities.
Given these worrying statistics, now is the time to come together for a solution.
Latinos Can Lead the Movement
Increasingly, many parts of the United States health care system are making mental health care a priority.
By 2020, latinos will become the largest ethnic minority group in the United States, comprising about 15% of the U.S. population. You don’t have to be a physician, therapist, or health plan executive to be part of the solution. Here’s what we need to push for:
- Improve access to treatment: Easy access to high-quality mental health treatment is a critical barrier to entry for many people, especially latinos. A 2001 Surgeon General’s report found that only 20% of hispanics with symptoms of a psychological disorder talk to a doctor about their concerns; barely 10% contact a mental health specialist. We need to make sure that these patients have access to mental health providers who understand the cultural differences they may face and are able to deliver therapy in spanish.
- Using technology to improve access and quality of care: A recent article published by Univision described the use of telemedicine as one solution to the access problem. There is good research to support the benefits of technology to deliver help patients track their emotional wellbeing and technology to deliver mental health care in english and in spanish. Technology can help bridge gaps in access to spanish-speaking providers and improve in parts of the country with low numbers of mental health professionals.
- Push for equal coverage for mental health conditions: Today, laws require health plans to cover mental health services just as they cover medical conditions. If patients feel they denied care or unable to access care they can submit a complaint through a web resource offered by the Kennedy Forum. Responses are used to shape public policy and influence legislation that will assist individuals with mental health and substance use disorders. Health plans are feeling the economic brunt of the mental health crisis. Decades of research have shown the profound impact that mental health issues have on overall medical health, worsening clinical outcomes, impairing productivity at work, and leading to significantly greater medical costs to the tune of $200 billion dollars in avoidable medical spend each year. Recent studies have demonstrated that every dollar spent on addressing mental health issues can lead to as much as four dollars saved on overall medical costs. Treating mental health is good for everyone.
- Stamp out stigma online: By participating in social media movements such as the World Health Organization’s Depression: Let’s Talk campaign, you can help eliminate the stigma associated with depression. Reporting online bullying is another way you can make a difference in your digital community.
- Lead by example: If depression has affected you, don’t be afraid to talk about your experience with family and friends. Stigma only exists because we allow it to. If you need inspiration, The Mighty and Thrive Global are two publications which feature personal stories from public and private figures.
It starts with us, as one global community, saying: "Está bien no estar bien (it’s OK to not be OK)".
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