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New Report Stresses Cultural Approach to Latino Youth Mental Health

Incorporating culture and community is key for treatment to help resilient, yet vulnerable youth

December 20, 2016

Contact:
Kathy Mimberg
kmimberg@nclr.org
(202) 776-1714

WASHINGTON, D.C.—In a new report released today, NCLR (National Council of La Raza) emphasized the value of a cultural approach to mental health services for Latino youth. Despite the deep resilience displayed by young Latinos—many of whom are affected by poverty, discrimination and other adversity—they have a higher prevalence of depressive and suicidal symptoms than any ethnic group in the nation, and face multiple barriers to accessing preventive and treatment services. In the report, NCLR applauds the recently approved and timely 21st Century Cures Act as an important step in making mental health a national priority, and in supporting expansion of mental health practices that are both evidence-based and culturally appropriate.

“Latino youth face more stressors today than ever, with heightened anxiety not only from the usual pressure on teens to succeed in school and prepare for the workforce, but also from post-election increased incidents of intolerance and concern about the potential deportation of family members,” said NCLR President and CEO Janet Murguía. “It is imperative that these children have access to mental health programs centered in their culture and community. Given that 95 percent of Latino youth are U.S. citizens, their well-being is vital to our nation’s future.”

In “Mental Health Services for Latino Youth: Bridging Culture and Evidence,” Dr. Patricia Foxen, NCLR Deputy Director of Research, describes the mental health landscape for Latino youth, including risk factors, existing treatments and the ongoing debate about strategies for treating Latino youth and how programs should be evaluated. The report describes mental health programs that integrate cultural values, beliefs and practices into their treatment strategies, and address issues such as identity and family, pressure to acculturate, as well as cultural concepts such as respeto and collective responsibility.

“With our new report, NCLR wants to help open a conversation about the urgent need for high-quality mental health interventions for Latino and other minority youth that are culturally and linguistically appropriate,” said Foxen. “We hope to see innovative strategies that help strengthen their natural resilience and protective factors such as family and community.”

There is great cause for concern about Latino youth mental health: in 2015, 46.7 percent of young Latinas said they felt sad or hopeless (compared to 37.9 percent of White and 33.9 percent of Black girls), and in the same year, 15.1 percent of Latina teens attempted suicide, compared to 9.8 percent of White and 10.2 percent of Black teenage girls. Foxen finds that existing mental health interventions for Latino youth are often either insufficient or disconnected from the unique needs and experiences of Latino families and communities, or both. When their mental health issues are undiagnosed, misdiagnosed or untreated, this often leads to negative interactions at school and with authorities, increased disconnection from family and society, and for a significant group of young Latinos, eventual exposure to the criminal justice system.

“The release of this report comes at a critical time for Latino youth because of the current toxic environment in which they experience higher levels of discrimination, racism and bullying simply for being Latino. The social, physical and emotional consequences of these actions are troubling. NCLR’s report presents the cultural issues that must be taken into account when serving Latino youth and explains the solutions that have proven to work in order to restore emotional balance to their lives,” said Dr. Pierluigi Mancini, President, Board of Directors, National Latino Behavioral Health Association.

A copy of the report can be found here: http://publications.nclr.org/handle/123456789/1673.

NCLR—the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States—works to improve opportunities for Hispanic Americans. For more information on NCLR, please visit www.nclr.org or follow along on Facebook and Twitter.