News & Announcements

Latino Youth Face a Higher Rate of Depression than Their Peers

Posted: September 21, 2017

New research suggests that Latino children are more likely to suffer from depression and other mental health illnesses, but only 8 percent of Latinos say their child has received mental health services. Latino youth are depressed at a higher rate than any minority besides Native Americans, according to the Salud America! network at UT Health San Antonio.

Low response or desire to seek therapy can lead to greater chances that these conditions will go untreated over the course of a person's lifetime. From language barriers to economic hardship, social factors can be a significant contributor to emotional stressors affecting children in the home and in school.

More than 17 percent of Latino students surveyed report being bullied. Thoughts of suicide are up to 8 times higher for Latino students, who say they feel less connected or lack communication with their families. 

Fortunately, several solutions are emerging, according to the research:

  • Latino children have less stress and more classroom success in programs that mix regular physical activity with mental health education.
  • Community-based, cultural interventions have shown promise in improving Latino children’s access to mental health care.
  • School-based bullying prevention programs can decrease bullying by up to 25 percent.

“Despite the high rate of mental health issues faced by Latino children, disparities persist in how they use and receive mental health services,” said Amelie G. Ramirez, Dr.P.H., lead author of the research review. She is the director of Salud America! and the Institute for Health Promotion Research in the Joe R. & Teresa Lozano Long School of Medicine at UT Health San Antonio.

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Making Smoking Cessation Work for People with Mental Illnesses and Other Vulnerable Populations

Posted: September 19, 2017

The prevalence of cigarette smoking among adults is now at a modern low of 15 percent, and youth rates are also down for high school seniors, with only 3.4 percent smoking daily. Yet this is not a time to become complacent and move on to other public health problems. As many as 40 million people still smoke, and half of them will die prematurely as a result. Furthermore, smoking rates remain high among the most vulnerable populations, such as people with mental illnesses or substance use disorders, necessitating policies and strategies targeted specifically at them, as well as support for tobacco control at the federal, state, and local levels.

Smoking rates have declined much faster among prosperous, well-educated people than they have among the less fortunate. As a result, smoking is now concentrated among special populations: People with mental illnesses have smoking rates that range from 30 percent to more than 50 percent, depending on the specific diagnosis. People with substance use disorders have even higher rates—from about 50 percent for those who abuse alcohol to more than 77 percent for those who abuse heroin. The LGBTQ populations, people with less education, prisoners, and homeless people also have smoking rates that are higher, sometimes much higher, than the overall population’s rate. Yet these special populations are a part of that general population. Excluding them would bring the population smoking rate closer to 10 percent.

Addressing smoking among vulnerable populations requires motivating and engaging the clinical, governmental, and advocacy organizations that serve those clients. This involves challenging several erroneous but deeply ingrained myths, such as the beliefs that individuals with a chronic mental illness do not want to quit smoking, are unable to, rely on smoking to treat their underlying disease, or do not suffer much damage from smoking. The Smoking Cessation Leadership Center at the University of California, San Francisco, has been working collaboratively with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to hold leadership academies in 15 different states to create a plan to drive down smoking rates among people with mental illnesses or substance use disorders. In addition, the center has worked with clinical organizations such as the American Psychiatric Nurses Association, the American Psychiatric Association, and the American Psychological Association, advocacy groups such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and consortiums such as the National Council for Behavioral Health to accomplish those goals. A recent collaboration with the American Cancer Society has engaged multiple organizations to create a national roundtable on behavioral health and tobacco use.

Although it is premature to assess the effectiveness of these efforts, over the past few years smoking among people with behavioral health conditions has declined at a faster rate than for the general population, although it is still at a much higher level.


Nonwhite Students Slow to Seek Mental Health Counseling

Posted: September 17, 2017

When Karla Mendoza moved from her predominantly Mexican-American neighborhood in San Diego to go to Harvard University four years ago, she felt like a minority for the first time

"I felt lonely. I felt distant. Both my roommates were white, upper-middle class," Mendoza says. "We got along great, but when class or race issues arose, a wall came up. I felt like I couldn't express what I felt, and they felt like I was attacking them."

Even though she was a student liaison for mental health – she informed freshmen about the counseling available – Mendoza said she didn't recognize her own signs of depression and anxiety.

"I would go three, four days without showering because I couldn't stand to be alone with myself," she said. But she didn't seek help.

Mendoza, 22, who ended up taking a year off before returning to Harvard this fall, illustrates a paradox: Surveys show that nonwhite students are often more stressed than their white classmates, but experts say they're less likely to seek psychological help.

This further complicates efforts to increase the proportion of black and Hispanic students who succeed in earning college and university degrees, and who graduate at rates lower than whites.

Seeking psychological help is "culturally unacceptable in the African-American and Latino communities," says Terri Wright, executive director of the Steve Fund, a nonprofit established by the family of a black graduate student named Stephen Rose who committed suicide. The organization advocates for mental and emotional well-being for black, Hispanic, Native American and Asian college students. Within these groups, "the words 'therapist' or counselor' are loaded," Wright says. "If you have problems, you don't go outside your family, or maybe you talk to your faith leader."

As much as nonwhite students resist taking advantage of mental health services, there's evidence they're more in need of them. More than half of black college students report feeling overwhelmed most or all of the time, compared with 40 percent of whites, a survey conducted by the Harris Poll, the JED Foundation and other groups found. About half of black and Hispanic students, compared with 41 percent of whites, say it seems everyone has college figured out but them.

That's because black and Hispanic students often carry a heavy load of stress. "[I]n addition to the stressors most students face at college – being away from home, time management – there are race-related stressors or minority-status stressors," says Kevin Cokley, a professor of educational psychology and African and African diaspora studies at the University of Texas—Austin.

These stressors include assumptions by some white students and faculty that a minority student wouldn't be in the classroom but for affirmative action, says David Rivera, an associate professor of counselor education at Queens College of the City University of New York. That perception can make itself felt in seemingly innocuous comments such as, "'I'm surprised you did well on that paper,'" Rivera says. "If you confront it, you're dismissed, but if you ignore it, you're left holding on to that experience," he adds.

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Rural Communities, Elderly Severely Affected by Opioid Crisis

Posted: September 14, 2017

The opioid addiction crisis is having a devastating impact on rural communities, where older people are especially vulnerable to becoming "collateral damage," a report from Grantmakers In Aging finds.

The report, Heartache, Pain, and Hope: Rural Communities, Older People, and the Opioid Crisis: An Introduction for Funders (24 pages, PDF), found that the epidemic of addiction has affected entire rural communities, many of which lack substance-abuse infrastructure and resources. Rural populations also are older and poorer on average than non-rural populations, and rural America in general tends to be overlooked in national policy making discussions. In 2015, rural Appalachia, New England, and the Midwest had the highest drug overdose rates, with people in rural counties, according to the CDC, nearly twice as likely to overdose on prescription painkillers as people in cities.

"Opioid misuse by older adults is very common in this region, largely due to poor health literacy and misunderstanding of the medication itself rather than a blatant desire to abuse," a healthcare worker in rural Ironton, Missouri, says in the report. "They also have very little understanding of serious side effects like respiratory depression and potential signs of an overdose."

The study also found that the repercussions of addiction extend far beyond the addicted individuals, affecting child welfare, public safety, criminal justice, the economy, caregiving, and housing. And as more adult children with addiction problems move back in with their parents, older people can become easy targets for financial, physical, and emotional abuse; reports of elder abuse cases in Massachusetts, for instance, have increased 37 percent over the past five years.

At the same time, the report finds that rural communities have a number of assets they can deploy to combat the epidemic, including cohesive, supportive kinship and community networks and flexible, innovative local institutions. Indeed, by understanding both the needs and the potential of rural communities, funders can achieve greater impact in addressing the crisis. Funded by Tivity Health and the Empire Health Foundation, the report highlights proven programs, partnerships, policy recommendations, and scientific and medical responses that governments, communities, nonprofits, and philanthropies can support and scale.


A Roadmap to Behavioral Health: A Guide to Using Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Services

Posted: September 12, 2017

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Office of Minority Health (CMS OMH) in partnership with Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) released The Roadmap to Behavioral Health.

This guide offers important information about mental health and substance use disorder services, finding a behavioral health provider, defining behavioral health terms, receiving services, and following up on care. The resource walks through the 8 Steps of the Roadmap to offer information specific to behavioral health, and offers a glossary and links to other HHS resources. 

Download the guide (pdf). 

To learn more or download C2C resources, please visit or email  

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