Cultural Barriers for Recovery from a Hispanic Perspective

fence-railing-wrought-iron-barrier-51002Asking for help is difficult in any language and any culture. How do we know when we need help? Who to ask for it and how to pay for it? What are our family and friends going to say if we ask for help? How are they going to feel about it? What are people in our communities going to say if we ask for help? How is it going to be? What’s going to happen if we stop using and we are in recovery? How do we get there?

These are only a few questions we ask ourselves when we start to think about being change, especially when it means taking about recovery, letting go of what we know and stepping into what’s not familiar. Fear and shame tend to be the main reason why people don’t ask for help or choose to go to treatment. Unhealthy behaviors grow in fear and shame. Shame is a painful feeling. Some people feel humiliated and distressed when they realize that their behavior is out of control, they have made really bad choices and need others to intervene and help them. It’s a difficult process to get to that realization and own the fact that we are vulnerable.

In the Hispanic culture the fear of being judged as “crazy or a drug addict”, losing respect and status in the community and trying to find alternative treatments through shamans and healers could be potential barriers to access appropriate services and treatment. However, not all barriers for mental health service utilization result from personal preference and struggles with fear and shame.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration indicated on their National Survey on Drug Use and Health that prescription psychiatric medication and mental health services use in the past year were highest for white adults (14.4 percent), adults reporting two or more races (14.1 percent), and American Indian or Alaska Native adults (13.6 percent), followed by black (6.5 percent), Hispanic (5.7 percent), and Asian (3.1 percent) adults. These estimates indicate that Hispanics are on the lower end of asking and receiving the help they need.

Many of the racial/ethnic differences in mental health service utilization tend to result from structural barriers, such as lack of transportation, low availability of care providers, cost, migratory status and insurance barriers. Hispanic adults had a lower estimate of mental health care visits compared with white adults, regardless of gender, age, education level, income, and insurance status. Surprised? There is a lot to consider when talking about why Hispanics don’t ask for help, it’s important to think about the whole picture. There is more to asking for help than just asking!

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, National Survey on Drug Use and Health

Carolina Gaviria, LMHC, NCC

Bilingual Psychotherapist (Spanish)



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *