'I Cut': Inside Latina Teens' Battles with Mental Health Crisis
As the Latino population continue to grow exponentially in the United States, acknowledging the disparities in health care among the community is becoming increasingly important. Many within the Latin community suffer from mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.
According to Mental Health America, more than 15 percent of the country's 17.8 percent Latin or Hispanic population suffered from a mental illness the previous year-that is equal to over 8 million people.
A 2018 research report claims the mental health crisis affects 1 in every 4 Latina teens or over 2 million youths.
In Milwaukee, many Latina teens are enrolled in SEEDS (Self-Esteem, Empathy, Empowerment, Discovery of Self). The four-month-long program offers social services to teens ages 13 to 16 and provides a safe space for them to talk about mental health issues including anxiety, depression, and suicide.
According to SEEDS psychotherapist Melissa Waldo, the majority of the program attendees are Latina youths who were diagnosed with mental health problems. Many developed the issues due to family stressors or immigration issues.
In the Latino community, mental health issues are not often spoken about, partly due to a stigma attached to the subject. Teens are also expected to meet a certain criterion that constitutes being a 'good' Latina. These expectations are rooted in maintaining appearances when it involves personal issues such as mental health. Latinas who express difficulties handling anxiety or depression are also often dismissed as 'too emotional.'
According to a 2017 CDC Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Report, 10.5 percent of Hispanic female high school students in the United States attempted suicide. In white females, the number sit at 7.3 percent. In Hispanic males, only 5.8 percent attempted suicide, while only 4.6 percent of white male teens were affected.
Mental health experts claim some factors such as being the first generation Latina, discrimination, or living in a mixed-status household make the teens, and the Hispanic community, more susceptible to developing anxiety and depression. An immense amount of pressure is also attributed to rapidly growing levels of mental health issues within the community-50 percent of whom report suffering from anxiety-related symptoms.
Latin artists, singers, and authors have contributed to a growing awareness of mental health issues among the Latin community.
Demi Lovato has constantly opened up about her mental health issues and her ongoing battle with a bipolar and eating disorder. She's documented the ups and the downs of her struggles and recovery process.
The singer also collaborated with a nonprofit organization to provide free mental health sessions during each of her 2018 tour dates. The shows featured guest speakers that led discussions on mental health awareness.
In a Good Morning America interview, Lovato claims she hopes her tours and the mental health sessions could remove the stigma surrounding the issue. She also believes it is important to give back and offer help to people who are battle the same battle she has for her whole life.
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