By Brianna Martinez
Y2 staff writer
This Thanksgiving was one that I could never forget even if I wanted to.
Within my hispanic community, I have a group chat with my close friends from middle school since we all moved to different high schools. We’d send pictures to each other, talk about school, and even talk about our problems, but little did I know, our close friendships would change for good.
The week of Thanksgiving was calm and untroubled. My friends and I talked almost every second of each day, and all but one stayed mute. We didn’t pay too much attention to her absence and thought that she probably just didn’t see her messages, but the moment she finally spoke up, our worlds changed.
It was the Monday after Thanksgiving, and I was in my Pre-Cal class doing work when I got a notification saying that my friend Ana Vasquez had finally answered her phone. She was the girl that had gone mute. When asked why she hadn’t used her phone, she responded with the words “I was at Tropical for the week.” That meant she spent her week at a mental hospital.
Even with no communication shared and the long distances between us, you could tell that we were all shocked. Where I’m from, not many people get checked into mental hospitals. Nobody talks about their mental health. Nobody talks about depression. Nobody wants to be labeled “crazy.”
“I tried ending my life,” Ana said. My heart stopped, I felt like I couldn’t breathe, and I started to cry. To think that my last time seeing her would have been the last day of eighth grade which was over 3 years made me miserable. I felt so empty. It was too surreal.
I blamed myself. I didn’t make time to hang out, I didn’t try talking to her more, I didn’t ask her if she was truly feeling happy, but I wish I had. I still couldn’t comprehend how badly she felt towards her life. She wanted a way out of a life that was making her feel like there was no reason to live anymore.
After loving words were shared between us, I knew that I wanted her story to spark the conversation about mental health between the latino community. Masculinity, femininity, and religion have altered the way people within the latino community view their mental health.
Growing up in a hispanic household, I’ve noticed that your own mental health was something that was never talked about. Even when the topic would simultaneously come up from any news outlet, it was something that was either ignored or talked about with shame which would then result in most hispanics rejecting the idea of seeking any sort of help for any feelings.
When it comes to this stigma of mental health, many reasons may come to mind such as lack of information and misunderstandings, fear of being labeled “crazy,” and even language barriers according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. These reasons can be seen throughout many latino households.
You can’t express sadness so much, but you can express anger.
Masculinity in the hispanic community is a big reason as to why men won’t seek help. Men feel the need to be seen as tough and hard-headed instead of showing their true emotions.
“There’s still a stigma generally not even just in the latino community, and I think it’s even worse for men honestly to talk about feelings they have,” Belen Garcia, 41, from San Francisco said. “I have two boys, ages 3 and 5, and I’m very aware of trying to talk to them about being able to express their feelings of sadness and let them know it’s okay for boys to cry.”
Femininity in the latino community makes mental health a bit easier to talk about because women are seen more as emotional. Talking about worries or feelings comes with ease while protecting their mental health even if women are at greater risk of poor mental health according to the Mental Health Foundation.
When it comes to religion in the latino community, many people find themselves praying to God or to their rosaries either at their Catholic church or in the comfort of their own home. Having these beliefs makes it easier for people in the latino community to talk about serious issues going on in their life. This lifestyle often makes it harder for people to be able to visit a psychiatrist or specialist.
Although there are many reasons as to why latinos don’t seek the help they need, our generation can help change the stigma about mental health.