COVID-19 is hitting Latinx communities hard, but there’s lack of access to bilingual, culturally informed treatment. Anxiety and fear are pervasive during the coronavirus pandemic. Yet some populations are undergoing even greater psychological trauma — and Hispanics are among them.
“All of us have been experiencing stress; for Latinx communities it’s double,” said Olivia Quiroz, executive director of the Oregon Latino Health Coalition.
Latinxs are about twice as likely as white people to view the coronavirus as a major threat to their health, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey. Another Pew survey found around half of Hispanics said they or someone in their household has taken a pay cut or lost a job, or both, because of the COVID-19 outbreak, compared with 33% of all U.S. adults. But when it comes to obtaining effective mental health support to cope with these intense strains, Oregon Hispanics will encounter a longtime deficit.
“The gap is pretty enormous in terms of Latinxs having access to linguistically and culturally appropriate care,” said Kat Kelly, who’s worked as a therapist and now serves as director of strategic initiatives at Catholic Charities of Oregon. The Catholic nonprofit’s counseling center is one of a limited number of programs in the state offering bilingual, culturally informed therapy.
As coronavirus cases increase, “it’s triggering a lot in our Latinx communities,” said Quiroz, and the psychological repercussions “are bubbling up at a rate that we are not prepared to respond to.”
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) found Hispanics typically struggle with common mental health disorders such as major depression, generalized anxiety disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder at rates similar to the general population, but they are at higher risk for severe mental health problems. That’s in part due to the poor quality — or lack — of care they tend to receive. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health, Hispanics obtain mental health treatment half as often as non-Hispanic whites.
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