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Minority Women's Health

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Mental health problems and suicide

Latinos are at higher risk of depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. Young Latinos have high rates of suicide attempt. The stress of adapting to a new culture and language, along with poverty and discrimination, may be one reason for mental health risks among Latinos. Visit the mental health section of womenshealth.gov to learn the symptoms of these and other mental illnesses and how to get help.

Money problems, health problems, and the loss of loved ones are all sources of stress, worry, and sadness. During stressful times, feeling sad, worried, or anxious for a little while is normal. But it's not normal to feel this way a lot of the time. Ongoing feelings of sadness and numbness can be signs of depression. Constant worrying that won't go away can be a sign of an anxiety disorder. These feelings are not just "in your head" or a sign of weakness. Mental health problems, such as anxiety and mood disorders, are real illnesses, just like diabetes or heart disease. They can cause changes in your brain and body chemistry.

Treatment can help people with mental health problems to feel better. But Latinos use mental health services far less than other ethnic and racial groups. This is due in large part to lack of insurance or ways to get to mental health care providers. Yet cultural and language barriers also might play a role. Latinos in need of help may turn to family or community members, or the church, rather than to a doctor. Some may feel ashamed to seek help for mental health problems. Some people may not know the symptoms of mental health problems or know when to get help. Latinos who do seek care may have a hard time communicating with mental health care providers, and as a result, not get proper or effective care. No matter the reason, lack of mental health care means that Latinos bare a high burden of disability related to mental health problems.

Getting help is important. Unlike most disabling physical illnesses, mental illness often begins early in life. The sooner a mental health problem is discovered, the better the chance for a full recovery.

Remember: Mental illnesses are real, and treatment can help. If emotional problems are interfering with work, school, relationships, or home life, see a doctor.

If you have thoughts of hurting or killing yourself, get medical help right away. Call 911, 800-SUICIDE, or 800-273-TALK (8255), or check in your phone book for the number of a suicide crisis center.

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Content last updated: May 18, 2010.

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