Culturally sensitive mental health treatments for young Latinas that work
When Norma Villalobos, 34, was a teen, she felt like she didn’t fit in. Her parents were born in Mexico and she was born in the U.S. She had a traditional Mexican upbringing. “It sets you apart from the rest of your classmates,” she says. She became depressed and developed an eating disorder. “I always wanted to fit the American ideal of being thin.” She felt like she couldn’t talk to her parents because they didn’t understand her. “If I was crying, they would say would say ‘stop with the craziness.’”
Villalobos experienced what is common for many young Latinas. Latina adolescents must not only deal with typical teenage problems, they must also navigate the role of their ethnicity in their identity. Their rates of depression and suicide are high. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in 2011 suicide attempts for Hispanic girls, grades 9-12, were 70% higher than for White girls in the same age group. Latinas in the United States had the highest reported rates, with 21 percent having seriously considered suicide, according to CDC.
Alyse Long, 26, a Domestic Violence counselor at Cook County Hospital in Chicago, says cultural competency is key in addressing this issue. “If you don’t understand their worldview or if you ignore the issues in their culture, they won’t come back,” she says. She feels that some populations are being left out because of cultural barriers. Villalobos, for instance, experienced this kind of obstacle when she spoke to a counselor when she was a teen. “He spoke to me as if I were a white male,” she says.
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