While I am biracial, I grew up in a household heavily influenced by Latinx/Mexican culture. To anyone familiar with it, there isn’t a thing that can’t be fixed with some good, ‘ol VapoRub. Sore throat? Here’s some VapoRub. Bleeding out? Here’s some Vaporub. Struggling with your mental health? VapoRub is sure to fix it.
From an outsider’s perspective, this might seem silly. The only one of these that VapoRub might actually help with is a sore throat. However, this is how issues such as mental health are often approached. Either this, or it’s just ignored.
The approach many Latinx parents take to their children when they are struggling with is extremely dangerous, especially in the middle of this pandemic. We do not have the access to counselors at home like we would on campus. We need to remove the stigma of mental health in the Latinx community and in POC/BIPOC communities.
My mom is white, and my dad is Mexican. My mom speaks openly about her feelings and believes in therapy. However, my dad rarely speaks of his feelings and often doesn’t express sadness. It is very evident that a stigma exists. Therapy has proven effective in approximately 44% of patients, but the expression of feelings and therapy is often brushed off as something unnecessary or “something for white people” in the Latinx community, and numbers can’t help but show; 28% of Puerto Ricans living in the U.S. had depression symptoms, as well as 13% of Mexican Americans and 10% of Cuban Americans, according to a study by Cleveland Clinic.
Despite this, only 10% of Latinx patients will pursue some sort of treatment. You could only imagine how being stuck at home during the pandemic has affected millions of lives. Due to this situation, many people are doing virtual therapy on platforms such as Zoom. This could be a great way to have family members sit in during your therapy to try to understand why therapy helps and works more than VapoRub for situations involving mental health.
Alternatively, a great way to get a conversation started is to ask your family how their days were and genuinely listen. Small things like this could potentially help families open up and take mental health issues seriously. It may help them understand that it is alright to struggle with your mental health, and it doesn’t make you “loco” (crazy) for seeking help. If you believe your family wouldn’t be so open-minded to having conversations like this, you can try by taking baby steps. Occasionally telling your parents, siblings, or other family members how your day was could potentially get them to open their mind up.
Despite this being written from the perspective of someone who grew up in a Latinx community, my advice could possibly be used in other communities.When speaking to my friends (who also belong to POC & BIPOC communities), I noticed a trend in the way mental health is viewed; it is almost always seen as something unimportant and is often not discussed. Similarly, making progress towards having open conversations about mental health with family is important for other POC & BIPOC communities.
Even if you can’t speak your feelings, it is still important to express them. When I have feelings that I have trouble speaking, I like to take out my phone and just type long notes of how I’m feeling. They don’t have to be grammatically correct because nobody will see them. This could help you process your feelings if you feel like you need to share them with someone else, almost like the modern day version of a note to someone you don’t intend to send. Even if it is difficult to express your feelings, it could be vital in helping others understand how you’re feeling or for them to help you find help. You really don’t lose anything by attempting to express your feelings.
The stigma towards mental health in POC & BIPOC communities can be dangerous, especially if it means you are not getting the help you need. Remember that the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is always available 24/7 at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). If you are struggling with your mental health, consider taking some of my advice from above, and more importantly, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. A better day will come.