For many Latinos, mental health still carries a very real and very scary stigma. The statistics support this as there are an estimated 8.9 million Latino people in the U.S. that live with a diagnosable mental illness, but only 10 percent of Latinos with a mental health disorder seek mental health treatment. The disparity comes from several factors including lack of culturally competent therapists and high health care costs. Brandie Carlos knows firsthand about dealing with depression and the stigma Latinos sometimes face when seeking help for mental health issues. That was enough motivation for Carlos, a web designer, to create Therapy For Latinx, an online database that helps Latinos find mental health professionals in their own communities.
Therapy for Latinx is a website dedicated to helping Latinos find “culturally competent” therapists in their own communities.
Creator Brandie Carlos found herself lost in February 2017 when one of her best friends died by suicide. She was frustrated when she couldn’t find a therapist who spoke Spanish and understood her culturally.
“I tried seeking Latino therapy but nothing came up,” Carlos says. “It was when found out about a Black therapy database I thought to myself, ‘Why not a Latino version of this?'”
She put her website design skills to use and launched Therapy for Latinx this May. The website currently has over 65 Latino mental health practitioners in it’s directory and features a blog that highlights first-person stories of mental illness from a Latino perspective.
“I didn’t have a metal health or psychological background,” Carlos explains. “All I wanted was to focus on user friendliness when creating a website that would help people find these resources.”
Carlos argues that mental health needs to be talked about more, especially within Latino households.
Anyone can develop a mental health problem. It isn’t you fault or your family’s fault. Seeking treatment can help you live a fulfilled life. Getting help is a way to strengthen yourself and your family for the future. #therapyforlatinx #latinx #mentalhealthawareness
— Therapy For Latinx (@therapy4latinx) May 29, 2018
According to the American Psychological Association, 50 percent of Latinos don’t return to a psychologist after the first session which may be due to the language and cultural barriers. Carlos says it also has to due with stigmas and taboos in the Latino household when seeking mental help.
“I personally grew up depressed and under a Catholic family where things like mental health and depression weren’t talked about,” Carlos says. “You are either called a ‘Loca’ or crazy when you express a need for self-care.”
About 1 percent of U.S. psychologist practitioners identify as Latino, which shows the lack of cultural competency one may find when seeking help. Additionally suicide rates among Latino girls (grades 9–12) are 50 percent higher than suicide rates among white girls of the same age group.
Therapy for Latinx is helping connect Latinos to mental health services they never knew existed.
Common mental health disorders among Latinos are generalized anxiety disorder, major depression, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and alcoholism. Additionally, Latina high school girls have high rates of suicide attempts. #therapyforlatinx #latinawellness #latina
— Therapy For Latinx (@therapy4latinx) May 21, 2018
Carlos hopes the website grows beyond just a database but a nationwide resource for minorities to find help and seek information on mental health. There are plans to start a mentorship program to help more people of color (POC) be involved in the industry to help their communities.
“Once I started working on making things more accessible, I realized this is about social justice as well,” Carlos said. “As Latinos we’re incredibly underserved and I want to see these new mentors serve POCs.”
According to Carlos, one community that is heavily underserved are undocumented immigrants. This community has faced psychological attacks because of their immigration status and the current immigration debate in the U.S.
“We’ve had many people ask for help concerning immigration and LGBTQ services,” Carlos says. “We are always trying to grow our voice and help these marginalized groups find resources.”
The website is just a start in addressing mental health and the beginning of a larger discussion when it comes to Latinos and their mental health.
CREDIT: CREDIT: Mental Health America
Therapy for Latinx is growing at a fast rate, Carlos says its Instagram has averaged around 1500 new users a month, and wants to spread its services beyond just a database. Carlos hopes to have health workshops throughout the country and has already began planning a mental health event in Los Angeles. While there is still a ways to go in having more Latino health professionals reach the number of Latinos in the U.S., Carlos sees the discussion of mental health growing into a bigger conversation.
“When you’ve grown up speaking Spanish, it’s part of your identity. When a therapist speaks your language it makes a huge difference,” Carlos says. “It means a lot of Latinos are going to thrive without these cultural barriers stopping them.”