How to Get Mental Health Care When Your Latiné Family Is Not Supportive
By Priscilla Blossom
In Latiné families, sharing problems with outsiders is often discouraged. There are many reasons families may not support seeking help outside the family, including not wanting to burden others with family issues; the stigma of being perceived as weak, attention-seeking, or crazy; and believing everything can be solved with prayer.
That can make it hard to find mental health support when you need or want it, but there are other ways to find help when you’re struggling with anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues.
If your family has a negative view of mental health care, they may have a misunderstanding of therapy or what mental health experts do. If they’ve never gone to therapy—or had a bad experience—it may be even harder for them to understand why you would seek it out. You may even hear them say therapy is just for crazy people, not realizing there’s way more to it than that.
Family members may believe your struggles can be addressed with other approaches or view them as related to physical or spiritual health. They might suggest getting some rest, taking vitamins, or praying about your problems instead of sharing them with a friend or counselor. Those things can help a little, but they won’t offer you direct insight about your issues, help you learn skills to manage them, or tell you whether medication may help you.
It’s not just stigma, however, that sometimes prevents us from reaching out. For immigrant and first-generation Latinés, it can be hard to share struggles with parents who have had to face major obstacles to get us to where we are today, such as fleeing poverty, violence, and war. Talking to your family about your emotional challenges might feel like burdening them or disappointing them.
But you deserve support, and here’s how to find it on your own.
Reach Out to Trusted High School Staff
Many high schools have an on-site counselor or social worker who students can turn to. They’re not a replacement for an ongoing relationship with a therapist, but you can go to them for advice on dealing with issues at school or home, as well as help with finding other local mental health resources. If your school doesn’t have a counselor or social worker, reach out to a trusted teacher. You’d be surprised how many of them are willing to listen and help you find support.
If you are part of the LGBTQIA+ community, there may be queer-supportive resources at your school. They may not specifically address your culture, but they can offer a friendly, safe space. You can also see if your school has a Gay/Straight Alliance or similar on-site support group, like the one at G. Holmes Braddock Senior High in Miami, Florida, or the one at Mountain View High School in Loveland, Colorado.
Look Into On-Campus Counseling
Colleges and universities often provide multiple mental health resources for students, and finding them is as simple as doing a quick search on their website. You may find an on-site mental health center where you can make an appointment with a therapist or counselor between classes. These sessions are sometimes covered by health service fees that are already part of your tuition, which can be especially helpful if you want to avoid using your parents’ health insurance.
Dominican University in Illinois, for example, offers free counseling sessions via appointment, as well as stress-management and wellness services at its on-campus wellness center. It even has a free mental health text line to help during off hours.
Your campus may also provide group counseling options like the ones at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, including a Latinx therapy group, a women of color therapy group, and a Black men’s therapy group. Group therapy can help you find others to relate to, which is especially helpful if you’re struggling with isolation in addition to other mental health issues.
Find Out What Additional App-Based Supports Your College Recommends
If you feel overwhelmed by the idea of in-person counseling or you feel like you have too much on your plate to fit it into your schedule, you can see if your college offers any app-based mental health resources.
Your school may offer a number of apps to help you reduce stress, be more mindful, move your body, and get better sleep. They aren’t a replacement for traditional therapy, but it’s important to remember that taking better care of your whole self can help keep some mental health symptoms at bay.
The University of Colorado Denver and the University of Texas San Antonio both use an app for students called MySSP. The app is free and connects you to live counselors 24/7 via chat and phone. It also includes articles, podcasts, and videos about well-being, as well as virtual fitness sessions. At Northeastern University, students have access to a free account with Headspace, an app that features guided meditation, workouts, and audio stories and soundscapes to help you sleep better.
Seek Out Other Culturally Affirming Resources
Finding a therapist or counselor who understands your cultural background can be difficult, but it’s not impossible. Read our guide to finding culturally competent care to get started. Sites like LatinxTherapy, Therapy for Latinx, and others list hundreds of Latiné therapists and counselors. Look for one in your area or one who offers remote sessions. Sometimes you have to meet with a few therapists before you find one that’s right for you.
If you are still on your parents’ health insurance plan, call the insurance company to ask if therapy is covered. The phone number is usually listed on the back of your insurance card. Ask if they’ll send your parents information about how you’ve used the insurance, so there are no surprises. If they do and you aren’t comfortable with that, ask the therapist about sliding-scale rates. Many providers offer them, so you can pay a lower rate without using insurance.
Don’t Forget Your Friends
If you have close friends you trust, talk to them about your mental health struggles. There’s a chance they’re going through some of the same things and could also use the support. They may also be able to help you find a good therapist or support group in your area.
No matter what your mental health concerns are, you’re already taking the first step by looking for ways to help yourself. Remember there is always help available, including if you’re experiencing a mental health crisis. Check out our resources and make a plan to find care today.