We have plenty of statistical evidence that racial disparities in healthcare for mental illness and addiction exist and that Hispanics are on the losing end. The latest research shows that Hispanic Americans are less likely than Caucasian patients to seek out mental health care. This could be related to culture, access to health insurance or language barriers, but the fact remains that it means thousands of people who need it are not getting mental health treatment.
Hispanics Get Less Mental Health Care
A recent study confirmed the fact that Hispanics are under treated for mental illness when compared to Caucasian Americans. The study was led by researchers at Harvard Medical School who analyzed survey questions about mental health answered by over 47,000 participants. The racial makeup included Caucasians, African Americans and Hispanics. The participants were all adults over the age of 18.
The results of the study were in many ways unsurprising. The evidence showed that Hispanics get less care for mental illness than Caucasian patients. They stay in treatment programs for less time and are more likely to leave early against the recommendation of doctors. The survey also showed that Hispanics were less likely to seek mental health care. Among those patients needing mental health treatment, 40 percent of those who were Caucasian sought it out. Only 27 percent of Hispanics needing care did the same.
Why Aren’t Hispanics Seeking Treatment?
The research highlights one important factor in the disparities seen among racial groups when it comes to mental health care. There are many reasons proposed for why Hispanics are under treated, but this study found one that can be definitely said to be a cause: Hispanics are less likely to ask for treatment. Now it is up to experts and researchers to find out why.
Facts about Hispanics and mental health treatment collected by the government could help explain the disparity in seeking out treatment. For instance, we know that Hispanics are more likely to seek mental health treatment from sources other than specialists. This could be a primary care doctor, a clinic or with clergy. These settings are less able to provide the treatment or appropriate referrals that a patient needs.
Another factor that could contribute to the disparity is the barrier of language and culture. Data show that there are very few mental health care providers who speak Spanish or who are Hispanic. Only 1 percent of the members of the American Psychological Association who are clinical practitioners are Hispanic. Patients may resist seeking help when communication is difficult or when the healthcare provider may not be culturally knowledgeable about or sensitive to the patient.
Poverty, lack of access to health insurance and cultural stigma round out the top reasons experts believe Hispanics are hesitant to seek mental health treatment. Many of these factors can be addressed with expansion of healthcare, community education and prevention, cultural sensitivity training and providing bilingual treatment professionals. Addressing these issues is key to the mental health of one of America’s fastest-growing populations. If we can make the needed changes, a huge part of our population would be better served.