Tackling Mental Health Disparities Among California’s Latinos

Lali Moheno & her family worked the fields in Modesto. Three of her family members had untreated mental health problems. (Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images)

Lali Moheno went to school in Texas as a kid. But she, her parents, and her six siblings would bus to Modesto, California every summers to work the fields. Then in late August or September, her parents would put her and her siblings back in a bus to Texas. Mohseno worked the fields all the way through graduating from the University of Texas.

“Life was hard,” said Moheno said during a press conference at UC Davis. “We had three family members who had mental health issues. But of course, in our family, we didn’t recognize it. They’d say, ‘Ese? Esta un poquito loco [Him? He’s a little crazy]. Don’t pay attention to him. We don’t know what to do with him. He just follows us into the migrant camps.”

Moheno said her family didn’t know that visiting a psychologist or psychiatrist was even an option. That’s why she became a health activist working with farmworkers in Visalia. And that’s why she participated in a series of community forums looking at Latino mental health care disparities.

“Often when someone suffers from depression, unfortunately some family members — and I have seen it in churches also — they say it’s because of the weak character that they have, or they haven’t prayed hard enough.”

The result of the forums is a UC Davis study released this week, Community-Defined Solutions for Mental Health Care Disparities. Researchers highlight a variety of methods to close the mental health care gaps for Latinos in California.

Latinos make up over one-third of the nation’s population, and they’re the largest racial or ethnic group in California. But they’re also one of the most under-served communities in the state when it comes to getting mental health care.

Access to health insurance, transportation and language services all play into it. As does stigma associated with getting mental health care. Access to care also fluctuates based on ethnicity: Latinos of Mexican descent are less likely to get mental health care than other Latino groups, like Puerto Ricans. The report says about eighty-five percent of Mexican immigrants who need mental health services remain untreated.

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Health Reform Hits Main Street: En Español

We’ve told you about the interactive cartoon and animation that explains how health care reform may affect you. Now the non-partisan Kaiser Family Foundation has teamed up with the equally non-partisan The California Endowment to release a Spanish-language version of the same video.

(Courtesy: Kaiser Family Foundation)

The video, “La Reforma Del Cuidado De La Salud Llega al Público,” is narrated by Isabel Gómez-Bassols, a psychologist and host of the show “Doctora Isabel, el Angel de la Radio.” While Latinos account for 16 percent of the U.S. population, here in California, they make up 38 percent of the population — and about one-third of them don’t have health insurance.

Check out the video below, or click here.