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.
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.