Hispanic/Latinx communities face major disparities when it comes to both access to and quality of mental health care treatment. More than half of Hispanic young adults ages 18-25 with serious mental illness may not receive treatment.
Why is this happening? Well, language barriers, lack of health insurance, cultural stigmas, poverty, and legal status are all serious factors that can keep the Latinx community from getting the support they deserve. And, of course, COVID-19 has only exacerbated health inequities.
In honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month, we’re talking all about the inequality surrounding access to mental health care and how we can continue to break down barriers and eliminate stigmas, while honoring this history, culture, and contributions of this community.
We’ve asked two of our Sanvello therapists and members of the Latinx community to share their experiences as mental health providers, as well as offer up resources and tips for getting access to support.
Leticia Vasquez on her cultural awakening
¡Hola! My name is Leticia Vasquez and I am a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) in California. I am a cis-female, person of color of Hispanic descent, and so I want to share my thoughts on why we each need to recognize and celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month.
It is incredibly important to know from whom and where we come from so that we may honor the legacy of our people. Growing up, I did not allow myself to recognize this fact and it left me feeling confused, hurt, and angry. For a long time I internalized many of the Latinx stereotypes as a means of survival (or at least that’s what I told myself).
I wanted to separate myself from my ancestry and our culture because I believed that would somehow spare me from the troubles of our community. And yet, I faced near constant discrimination that often stifled my potential, while still denying myself this crucial part of my identity.
While I was in graduate school, I finally allowed myself to face this part of me that I had been shunning for so long. It was hard to process at the time, but this inner work led me to feeling enlightened and truly connected with my Hispanic ancestors in a way that felt impossible beforehand. For this, I am forever grateful.
Yes, I still have more work to do, but this awakening has strengthened my ability to empathize with and support others. Drawing from my experiences as a Latina, I now am better equipped to empathize with the turmoil of others, especially regarding cultural discrimination and its pervasive, negative impact on all areas of a person’s life.
I get to work closely with clients to reflect on how their personal experiences have shaped who they are today. This self-reflection allows them to ultimately break out of limiting thoughts and belief patterns, taking the next step towards living their fullest lives.
The Hispanic community faces unique struggles that stem from living in a nation in which we are condemned simply by the degree of darkness of our skin. It’s vital that we recognize our collective history and uplift our community. We all benefit from the many talents and strengths each and every person brings to this world, including you, Reader. Please don’t ever forget that or allow others to take that away from you.
Maritza Contreras Rivera on advocating for her community
I’m Maritza Contreras Rivera, a therapist at Sanvello. One thing I love about working at Sanvello is that, as a company, we greatly value diversity. By celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, we’re able to share how people of different backgrounds have contributed in destigmatizing mental health and making support services more available to everyone.
Being Latina brings another layer to being a therapist. I’ve had clients tell me that they feel more comfortable sharing their experiences as a person of color because they see that I am also a person of color. I also speak Spanish and have admired the ease of clients’ going back and forth between speaking English and Spanish during our sessions.
I come from a background where going to therapy is only for “crazy” people, with severe behavioral issues or for privileged people that can afford to pay someone to complain to. I too believed this when I was younger, so I get it. The truth is that therapy can be really helpful to most everyone, especially if you seem stuck or feel like your emotions are often taking over.
Hispanic communities face so many barriers in getting the help they deserve, so it’s important for me to do everything I can to support their mental health needs. I’ve seen and experienced the issues surrounding accessibility for those who do not have insurance or aren’t sure where to even start.
Finding a therapist can be challenging, but please don’t give up. Start by calling your insurance company to see if they can connect you to a therapist covered by your network. If you don’t have insurance, check out the resources listed below. I want to assure you that therapy is more than ranting and complaining. It can help you learn new skills to manage emotions, challenge your unhelpful thoughts, and teach new ways of behaving to improve your life.
I highly recommend working with a therapist trained in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT). If you are struggling with self-harm, impulsive behaviors, and intense suicidal thoughts, then I highly encourage doing dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT). I truly believe in therapy and have personally seen it change people’s lives. Please don’t give up in advocating for yourself and your community.
Resources for the Latinx community
Thanks to people like Leticia and Maritza, we’re making strides in advocating for access to mental health support for members of the Latinx community. Everyone deserves to feel safe and understood in their therapeutic space, so please take some time to look into these support resources.
- American Society of Hispanic Psychiatry offers a “find a physician” feature to link you to a Latinx provider.
- Brown Girl Therapy is the largest mental health community for children of immigrants.
- Latinx Therapy is a national directory to find Lantinx therapists.
- Mental Health America offers mental health resources for those who speak Spanish, as well as access to peer support.
- The National Alliance for Hispanic Health currently provides services to more than 15 million LatinX people throughout the U.S.
- PsychologyToday.com is a good place to start if you do not have health insurance. Their site can help connect you with a provider who offers services on a sliding scale.
- Therapy for Latinx offers a community database that can connect you with a therapist.
It can be incredibly disheartening to feel underrepresented or misunderstood when seeking out mental health support. If this has been your experience, please know that you are not alone and that you deserve access to therapy and other treatment services. We’re here to continue this conversation year round and to celebrate people like Leticia and Maritza who are challenging stigmas and breaking down barriers for their communities.
By Maritza Contreras Rivera, Sanvello Therapist
Maritza helps people problem-solve and learn skills that can help them to overcome the challenges they face. Her goal is to help clients reduce negative feelings, improve relationships, build resilience, and turn goals into actionable steps. She is trained as a licensed marital and family therapist in cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, and mindfulness. She has experience working with people struggling with stress, depression, anxiety, borderline personality disorder, and eating disorders.
When she’s not seeing clients, Maritza enjoys dancing, listening to live music, and trying as many restaurants as possible. Since COVID, she spends her free time reading, drawing, dancing when nobody is home, and watching documentaries.
By Leticia Vasquez, Sanvello Therapist
Leticia believes everyone deserves to live a life in which they thrive, starting first and foremost with their mental well-being. She combines this philosophy with her love of fun, learning, and innovation in order to propel her clients forward in embodying their best selves. She is a licensed clinical social worker in the state of California with six years of experience in the mental health field. Much of her previous training has been with adolescents and adults who struggle to varying degrees with depression, anxiety, poor self-esteem and confidence, disordered eating, substance use, and histories of trauma/abuse. Her therapeutic approach has particular emphasis in cognitive behavioral therapy, strengths-based, dialectal behavioral therapy, mindfulness, and feminist theory.
When she’s not seeing clients, Leticia enjoys spending quality time with her boyfriend and cat. She takes pride in her love of video games, volleyball, and fantasy TV shows.