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For Practitioners: Understanding the Stigma of Mental Health in Latinos

There have been several important studies of Latino mental health in recent years, including the Mexican American Prevalence and Services Survey (MAPSS) Study and the National Latino and Asian American Study. Some key issues that have emerged from these studies include:

•Overall, Latinos experience lower rates of most mental health disorders compared to the general U.S. population. For example, approximately 25% of European Americans met criteria for any depressive diagnosis in a large national study, whereas less than 20% of Latinos met criteria for depressive disorders in a parallel study. However, rates of depressive diagnoses were higher for Puerto Ricans and Cubans and lowest for Mexican immigrants. Similar patterns were found for anxiety and substance use diagnoses.

•Mexican immigrants have significantly lower rates of depression and substance use disorders compared with their U.S.-born counterparts. This phenomenon has been termed the Latino Paradox. While Mexican immigrants have lower socioeconomic status than U.S. born Mexican Americans, their mental health is better than those born in the U.S.

•Puerto Ricans on the U.S. mainland tend to have higher rates of mental disorders than other Latinos as well as Puerto Ricans in Puerto Rico. The Latino Paradox does not apply to Puerto Ricans.

•The Latino Paradox applies to Cubans and Latinos from Central and South America for substance use disorders, where immigrants from those countries have lower rates of substance use than their U.S. born counterparts.

•Latinos have lower rates of mental health services utilization than other ethnic groups, except for Asian Americans. Latino immigrants have especially low rates of mental health services use.

•Latina adolescents have the highest rate of suicidal ideation and attempts of any ethnic and gender group in this age category.

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