Spanish-speaking Americans across the U.S. say they have a hard time finding mental health care services in their native language. Only 5.5% of U.S. psychologists say they’re able to administer mental health care services in Spanish, according to a survey released by the American Psychological Association in September 2016, the most recent data available. In all, 44.9% of psychologists said they were “quite or extremely knowledgeable” about working with Hispanic patients.
The demand for full-time psychologists within the Hispanic community is expected to surge 30% by the year 2030. That’s second highest only to “other racial/ethnic minority groups” – including Asians, Native Americans and multiracial people – with a growth of 32%, according to the American Psychological Association. African Americans will see an 11% increase, and whites a 2% decrease.
Critics say mental health providers are simply not keeping up with the nation’s growing Hispanic population, which reached 59.9 million in 2018, or roughly 18% of the U.S. population.
This disparity is noteworthy, in part, because Latino Americans face unique mental health issues compared to the country’s population at large. The National Alliance on Mental Illness found Hispanics tend to struggle with common mental health disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder, major depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and alcoholism at an average rate, but are at higher risk for severe mental health problems, in part because of the poor quality of treatment they tend to receive.
“Even though we grow up here in America and we’re American citizens and we consider ourselves proud Americans, there are things that we grow up with in our culture or in our family that are difficult to translate to an English-speaking therapist or English-speaking community,” Jasmine Alcala says. “Being able to have someone with a Spanish-speaking background who understands the invisible rules of our culture just really made sense.”
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