Middle age Latinx couple smiling happy standing at street of city.

Breaking the Stigma: How Latinx Can Overcome Cultural Barriers to Seek Mental Health Treatment


Today, I want to address a topic that is close to my heart and deeply relevant to many of us within the Latinx community: breaking the stigma surrounding mental health. A study highlights the following: In Latino culture, mental illness stigma includes seeing it as a weakness, going crazy, witchcraft, demons, or lacking faith. Studies find Latino men with depression face more stigma than women, possibly due to cultural norms expecting men to be emotionally reserved and self-reliant. As a mental health clinician, I've seen firsthand how cultural barriers can prevent individuals from seeking the support they need. But I've also witnessed incredible resilience and strength within our community, and I believe we can overcome these barriers and prioritize our mental well-being.

As a mental health clinician deeply rooted in the Latinx community, I am continuously inspired by the resilience and strength of our people. However, I am also acutely aware of the unique challenges we face when it comes to addressing mental health issues. According to Cleveland Clinic, “Only 20% percent of Latinos with a mental disorder talk about it with a primary care physician, and only 10% pursue treatment from a mental health provider.”  In many Latinx households and communities, there exists a common stigma surrounding mental health – a stigma that can prevent individuals from seeking the help they need and deserve. 

In my own experience, I have witnessed the stigma and silence in my family. Don’t say certain things out loud; keep hushed. If you don’t speak it to existence, then it’s not happening. Let’s continue to sweep things under the wrong and place the veil of perfection, and everything will be fine. These very observations led me to my career. 

The following are familiar sayings you might have heard related to mental health in the Latinx community and the continued stigma and challenges faced. Perhaps some of these sound familiar. I have placed these so you can read them and see that you are not alone in your experience.

  • "¿Por qué estás llorando, ¿quieres llorar más?", "Te daré una razón para llorar".... "¿Por qué tienes que estar deprimido?" "Solo querías llamar la atención"..... "Sé cómo deshacerse de la depresión, toma la escoba y comienza a limpiar; todo desaparecerá." 
  • “Tienes una casa, ropa, y comida, de que tienes que estar deprimido.” 
  • “Depresion lo que tienes es flojeria, ponte a barrer a trapear a limpiar la casa y vas a ver como se te quita” (and other variations) 
  • “Todo está en tu cabeza”
  • “Ponte a rezar” o “Necesitas una limpia” 

I want to emphasize something important: Getting help for mental health issues is not a sign of weakness. It takes courage to recognize when we are struggling and to seek support. However, fear of judgment and societal pressure to conform to cultural expectations can make it challenging to take the first step, especially when shame is associated with vulnerability. 

Education and Awareness 

One of the most effective ways to combat the stigma is through education and awareness; having an education on mental health can be empowering. Individuals and communities can benefit from learning about mental health, therapy, and the importance of seeking help. Therapy is here to help you deal with the stressors of everyday life. In sessions, clinicians teach coping skills, stress management techniques, self-care practices, mindfulness, psychoeducation, etc. There are so many tools and resources to assist with well-being. We foster an environment of self-awareness and personal growth. 

Culturally Competent Care

Finding a mental health professional who understands and respects our cultural background can make a difference. As seen at Sage Therapy Chicago, we understand the importance of connection and feeling. We take pride in offering culturally aware clinicians specializing in LatinX, BIPOC, and Immigrant issues. From our communities, we’ve dedicated ourselves to advocacy and recognizing the unique challenges the community faces, and we’re here to provide compassionate and understanding support. 

To schedule an appointment, Click Here 

For other Latinx resources: 

Support/Breaking the Stigma 

The National Alliance of Mental Health reviews and highlights the continued stigma faced in the Latinx community; members of the Hispanic/Latinx community often prefer to keep personal challenges to themselves and may avoid discussing them publicly. Stigma within the community can also result in a lack of awareness about mental health symptoms and available support resources, potentially preventing individuals from seeking necessary treatment. In these communities, we are raised to be strong, face challenges, get up and keep going without complaining, and always prioritize our families' needs before our own. Creating and fostering a system filled with support and unconditional positive regard can make a difference. Lean on your friends and family, have open conversations, dare yourself to be vulnerable, and make room for change. 


In conclusion, overcoming the stigma surrounding mental health in the Latinx community requires education, awareness, and support. As a mental health clinician within this community, I've seen the challenges individuals face due to cultural barriers and stigma. Yet, I've also witnessed our community's strength and resilience.

Seeking help for mental health isn't weakness; it's courage. Education empowers us to prioritize our well-being, while culturally competent care breaks down barriers to treatment. Support networks and advocacy initiatives are essential in fostering a culture that values mental health.



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