Holiday Green Cactus
In Latino and Hispanic households, mental health discussions have historically been shrouded in silence Harvey

NEW YORK - Amid the vibrant tapestry of festive decorations and joyous celebrations, a silent struggle permeates the holiday season for many Hispanics: loneliness.

The joyous atmosphere often amplifies the ache of separation as families, bound by love, find themselves scattered across vast distances. During this time, it can be difficult to deal with the emotional intricacies of loneliness. Not only does loneliness affect the community, but it can be difficult to convey these emotions of sadness to family and friends. Remember, you are not alone. There are support and resources available to help you through these challenging times.

For those who may be dealing with these complex emotions that the Hispanic community experiences, below are suggestions for how to have an open conversation with family and friends surrounding mental health during the holidays.

Challenges in Discussing Emotional Well-being and Cultural Nuances

The language of emotions can be intricate, and for Spanish-speaking families, articulating feelings can be even more challenging. When having emotional conversations with family, it can be not easy to find the right words to convey how you are feeling, hindering effective communication and potentially impacting your mental well-being. This can be especially true during the holidays, when one is expected to be grateful for the opportunities given in life. Don't forget to check in with yourself. Before sharing your feelings, take a moment to identify and understand what you're feeling. Are you sad, frustrated, or feeling isolated?

Moreover, cultural nuances within the Hispanic community play a pivotal role in shaping attitudes toward mental health. In Latino communities, stigma may involve associating mental illness with a weak character or going crazy [1]. This can cause individuals to stop themselves from seeking professional help due to the fear of being perceived as weak or incapable within their cultural context.

To address these issues, there is a need to explore and dismantle the stigma surrounding mental health within the Hispanic community. For example, personal stories and conversations with family and friends can highlight the impact of cultural stigma on individuals' ability to seek help. Sharing such narratives can create awareness and empathy, fostering an environment where mental health is acknowledged and addressed openly.

It's ok not to be ok. Reaching out for support is truly brave. If you are experiencing these challenges, find a support network and someone you can talk to. This could be a close friend or family member, or another resource such as Crisis Text Line, a national nonprofit providing free, 24/7 confidential mental health support via text messaging (in both English and Spanish).

How To Normalize Mental Health Discussions and Dismantle Stigmas

The journey through the emotional landscape of Hispanic families during the holidays begins with a critical examination of the prevailing stigma surrounding mental health. In Hispanic households, mental health discussions have historically been shrouded in silence. According to a study conducted by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, only 35.1% of Hispanic/Latinx adults with mental illness receive treatment each year compared to the U.S. average of 46.2%, underscoring the pervasive nature of the stigma [2].

Breaking generational barriers in discussions about mental health is a crucial step towards fostering understanding and support and, in turn, will lead to individuals being more open to reaching out for mental health support and treatment. A study from the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry found that older Hispanics are less likely to discuss mental health openly compared to younger generations due to them expressing greater shame or embarrassment of having a mental illness [3]. Some tips to consider when having conversations with family around the holidays to destigmatize mental health include:

● Start with Small Steps:

Begin by discussing lighter topics related to well-being, such as stress management or self-care routines. This can create a foundation for more in-depth conversations about mental health. For example, you can talk about a new self-care practice you started implementing, or how you managed a stressful week.

● Share Personal Experiences:

Lead by example. Share your own experiences with stress, anxiety, or the importance of mental health. Personal stories can make the topic more relatable and help others feel comfortable opening up.

● Use Inclusive Language:

Frame discussions in a way that emphasizes collective well-being. Using inclusive language, such as "we" and "us," can help community members feel that they are part of a shared journey toward better mental health. For example, you can share the "we all deserve to get the support we need."

● Highlight Cultural Strengths:

Emphasize the resilience and strength embedded in Latino culture. Discussing how individuals have overcome challenges can inspire hope.

● Promote Education:

Share information about mental health in accessible ways. Provide resources, articles, or videos that explain mental health concepts and emphasize that seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness. For example, you can send a video to a friend or family member and ask them what they think about it to open up the conversation about seeking help.

● Create Space During Family Meetings:

Use family gatherings during the holidays as an opportunity for open discussions. Make sure to check in with your loved one and create a safe space where family members feel heard and supported.

● Elders and Role Models:

If relevant in your culture, seek the support of respected elders or community leaders to discuss mental health openly. Their endorsement can carry significant weight and encourage others to engage in conversations.

● Normalize Professional Help:

Emphasize that seeking help from mental health professionals is a valid and effective way to cope with challenges. Share success stories of individuals who have benefited from therapy or counseling. You can even talk about the services that have been created for Latinos.

At Crisis Text Line, one of our goals is to provide the support the community needs when facing mental health issues, or advice on how to navigate conversations with family members. To receive support, one can reach a live Crisis Text Line volunteer Crisis Counselor by texting HELLO to 741741 or AYUDA to 741741 and 442-AYUDAME in WhatsApp for support in Spanish and via web chat. Volunteer Crisis Counselors provide nonjudgmental and confidential support and are available any time of the day or night.

As we advocate for open conversations and community support, we are invited to bridge the emotional distance that often separates Hispanic families during the festive season. Through dismantling stigmas, addressing challenges, and fostering understanding, these insights can serve as a roadmap towards a more connected and emotionally resilient Hispanic community.





--*Global Strategy Director at Crisis Text Line

This article does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Latin Times and its publishers.

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