Experienced psychiatrist Dr. Carol Lynn Childers serves as a consulting physician to Chicago organizations Trilogy Behavioral Healthcare and Healthcare Alternative Systems. Working through the latter organization, Dr. Carol Lynn Childers provides mental health care to the city’s Latino community.
When providing mental health services to diverse populations, a professional must understand cultural variations in attitudes toward treatment, as well as disparities in receiving that treatment. Statistics show that although persons of Latino heritage are no more or less susceptible to mental illness than non-Latinos, only 20 percent express their concerns to a physician. Ten percent or fewer reach out to a mental health professional. In fact, the National Resource Center for Hispanic Mental Health identifies the Hispanic community as possessing a higher-than-average risk of substance abuse, depression, and anxiety.
Some members of the Latino community feel that his disparity stems largely from cultural tendencies not to discuss mental health. Instead, members of the community reach out to family, friends, or faith leaders. This often results in a lack of informed input and a subsequent interpretation of mental illness and its symptoms as a temporary emotional or physical state.
Many believe that this misinformation contributes to the stigma associated with mental illness in the Latino community. This stigma may discourage Latinos from seeking treatment, which may seem more culturally irrelevant when one realizes that fewer than 25 percent of mental health professionals come from minority backgrounds.
Many believe that improved representation should be the long-term key to reducing care disparities, though awareness of cultural norms and the struggles of acculturation can help non-Latino providers to provide more relevant care.