Research shows that 16% of the Latinx population met the criteria for having a mental illness in the last year. However, only 34% of Latinx adults in the United States get help for mental health concerns in an average year.¹ This statistic means that millions of people aren’t getting the treatment they need.² Whether you’re looking for resources for yourself or a loved one, it’s crucial to know you are not alone.
We’ve compiled some facts about the struggles and barriers to mental health care that exist for the Latinx community within the United States, and some pointers and resources to help cross some of those gaps.
If you are currently having a mental health emergency, such as thoughts of suicide, please reach out to a friend or loved one, a text or phone crisis line (text HOME to 741741 or call 1-800-273-8255), or your local emergency department.
According to a poll taken by the American Farm Bureau Foundation in late 2020, the main obstacles to seeking mental health treatment by farmworkers — a majority of whom are Latinx — included:³
We’ll discuss each of these factors in more detail here.
Throughout this article, we use “Latinx” to describe Latinos, Latinas, and Latinés from Central and South America rather than “Hispanic.” These cultural and systemic issues affect people with roots in Brazil as much as they do in Nicaragua or Mexico but are less likely to affect those from Spain.
A vast majority of therapists in the United States only speak English. Despite 13.5% of the United States population speaking Spanish at home,⁴ only about 5% of therapists advertise Spanish-speaking capabilities.⁵ And not every Spanish-speaking therapist will have the cultural understanding to truly understand some of the nuances in your language.
Doing therapy in your native language has long been proven to be more than twice as effective as doing it in a second (or third, or fourth) language.⁶ Seeking help from therapists who speak Spanish as a second language is a great option, but there are some drawbacks. Even if you can communicate with them fully in Spanish, some culturally rooted phrases – like “me duele el corazón,” which literally means “my heart hurts” but is a common way of discussing emotional distress – may get lost.⁷ The language that we use shapes the way we speak and even think. Those who speak English as a second language may shift into Spanish when discussing an emotional event.⁸ If a mental health provider isn’t able to follow and try to deeply understand, it can lead to anything from a basic misunderstanding to a serious deficit of care.
If you can’t find a Spanish-speaking therapist, an interpreter might be able to help you. An interpreter will either sit with you in an in-person session or be available through an electronic service for both in-person and virtual therapy sessions. A mental health provider may offer an interpreter, or it might be your job to find one to join you. In either case, an interpreter is likely to cost as much as the session itself. Prices vary depending on demand but range from $45 to $150 per hour for an in-person session and $1.25 to $3/minute virtually.⁹
A 2020 study found that, while interpreters are expensive, they can help offset the amount of time you’ll need to spend in a medical office and therefore lower your overall costs, keeping your budget more consistent with national averages.¹⁰
Interpreters don’t need to be certified or have any licenses on a federal level, which can make finding one you trust even more complicated. Whether or not there are training or licensure requirements for your state, we recommend that any interpreter you choose has at least one certification anyway. Some professional organizations to look for when researching interpreters’ credentials include:
Because therapy is a confidential service, interpreters will need to sign informed consent forms to ensure they will protect your privacy.
There are many cultural barriers that might prevent someone in the Latinx community from seeking help. Mental health is heavily stigmatized, implying that those who are struggling with their mental health are weak, shameful, or embarrassing their family. This idea is pervasive throughout the entire country: 47% of respondents in one poll indicated that they feel seeking therapy is a sign of weakness.¹¹
Some people believe that a mental health problem will “go away,” and if you wait it out, your concerns will resolve themselves. Others feel that “airing their family’s dirty laundry” with outsiders is inappropriate and that familial matters should be resolved in the home or within a church. These stigmas very clearly paint the picture that you should avoid mental health care, or else those suffering are “weak” for not being able to take care of the issue themselves. And when they do finally seek therapy, many report not wanting to “get caught” or be seen doing it. Finding a culturally competent therapist who understands your fears and hesitations about seeking treatment is vital to preventing conflict and feeling heard when you’re ready.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the Latinx population is the second most likely to struggle with depression as of 2020.¹² Yet, a lack of Spanish-language resources on mental health means that people don’t always know the signs and symptoms of mental health concerns or where to find help when they appear.
Becoming a citizen of the United States isn’t an easy process; people can be denied citizenship based on mental health concerns. Specifically, immigration law in the United States will deny entry and green cards to those who have a clinically diagnosed physical or psychological disorder that could pose (or has posed) a threat to the property, safety, or welfare of the immigrant or those around them.¹³ However, this law can be confusing, and many Latinx people understandably want to err on the side of caution when it comes to such legal matters.
This exclusionary policy keeps many striving to become American citizens from seeking the mental health care they need. Even common mental illnesses like depression can have psychotic features, which many consider dangerous (an incredibly harmful stereotype). There are still ways to be let into the country if you don’t meet those criteria, but it can lengthen the process by several months and requires a significant amount of expensive medical record-based evidence. Likewise, many immigrants face traumas in their countries of origin before deciding to immigrate. It isn’t the only reason people move to the United States, but facing violence, persecution, large-scale conflict, economic problems, a lack of job opportunities, and more will take a toll on your psychological well-being. And if trauma isn’t processed in a healthy way, it can exacerbate mental health problems, including:
Immigration evaluations can be extraordinarily stressful events as well. Your entire way of life hinges on how well you do in an interview, and high levels of stress like that can also wreak havoc on your mental health.
Undocumented immigrants are also significantly less likely to seek mental health care out of fear of deportation and separation from their families. Racism, discrimination, and the current political climate exacerbate these concerns, leaving many mental health services inaccessible.¹⁴
As of 2019, 83% of psychologists in the United States were white. Only 7%, or about 8,000 psychologists, identified themselves in a demographic survey as Hispanic.¹⁵ This number is becoming more equitable with time – in 2010, only 4% or about 4,500 psychologists were Hispanic – but 8,000 mental health professionals across the country isn’t a lot, especially when you consider that many of them are saturated within just a few areas. There are more psychologists actively practicing in New York state than Hispanic psychologists nationwide.¹⁶
While you can find a good therapist no matter their ethnicity, sometimes it’s important to prioritize a cultural fit in your search. For example, if you’re struggling with a heart condition, you might start out by seeking help from a primary care physician, but it’s likely that the intricacies of your medical condition go beyond their expertise and you’d be better served by a cardiologist. It’s the same thing with mental health care: having a therapist of your ethnicity doesn’t always improve your outcomes, but sometimes having someone with an implicit understanding of your cultural values can help you feel safer.
Therapy can be expensive, and many people rely on their health insurance to subsidize treatment costs. Non-elderly Latinx people are the second most likely to not have health insurance in the United States, with 20% of the population – about 12 million people – uninsured in 2019 (behind Indigenous Americans, about 22% of whom were uninsured).¹⁷ Noncitizens are especially likely to be uninsured, with more than 40% of undocumented immigrants lacking health insurance in 2020.¹⁸ Plus, almost 20% of the Latinx population in the United States works at or below “poverty wage,” or a wage that would put them at or below the poverty line if they were the sole provider for their family.¹⁹ Even with health insurance, high copays and dozens of fees can make it feel impossible to afford the help you need.
Being able to take the time to go to therapy is another serious concern. Therapy typically takes about one hour out of every week (not counting commute time if you’re not using online therapy). Many therapists provide services during standard working hours, which can be impractical for people working long hours and multiple jobs to make ends meet.
The CDC found that Latinx populations were hit hardest by mental health concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic, compounded by the fact that this was also the group with the highest amounts of stress about food and shelter.²⁰ Societal exclusion and precarious living conditions are directly affected by financial situations and can negatively affect our mental health.²¹ When you’re struggling to put meals on the table, therapy is likely to be financially deprioritized, yet poverty can seriously affect our mental health. There are still ways to get help with low-cost online therapy, even if there isn’t much room in your budget.
If you’re experiencing a mental health crisis, know that there are some specific immediate-care resources available that can help you. While treatment like therapy and medication will help in the long term, if you’re feeling suicidal or are in danger to yourself or others, you should seek immediate help. Online chats and helplines are an accessible way to get that help: there are no associated fees and nowhere you need to go.
The Crisis Text Line announced a separate text line specifically for Spanish-language speakers in late 2021. Now, you can text HOLA to 741741 or 442-AYUDAME on WhatsApp to be connected to another Spanish speaker for a discreet helping hand.
You can also find support here:
If you or those around you are in danger, the crisis line might still recommend you go to your nearest emergency room.
Deciding that it’s time to pursue therapy is a big step that you should be proud of. Overcoming the barriers to finding a mental health provider who’ll work well with you isn’t easy, but we’ve compiled some resources to help you connect with the best provider for you.
One thing to consider when looking for a therapist, psychologist, social worker, or other mental health professional is the setting you want to see them in. Online therapy is just as secure and legitimate as an in-person session, with a few added bonuses.
You can read more about the perks of online therapy – and how to make it work for you – in our dedicated guide to the subject. Our research team has also worked with a professional therapist to answer some of the most common questions about starting therapy online.
Of course, seeking help from home also means that you may encounter personal obstacles like embarrassment or feelings of weakness. Good online therapy practices are completely confidential and follow all of the same rules as an in-person session, but there are things you can do to stay comfortable and maintain privacy from home. Setting a white noise machine or fan in front of your closed door can help prevent others from hearing what you’re talking about and is common practice in therapists’ offices.
When you’re ready to start, whether you choose to talk to someone in an office or from your couch, you can learn about the best ways to set yourself up for success.
Many state programs and universities offer translation services as well, often at a discounted rate.
 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2018). 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Hispanics, Latino or Spanish Origin or Descent. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Retrieved April 8, 2022, from https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/reports/rpt23249/4_Hispanic_2020_01_14_508.pdf
 Latinx/Hispanic Communities and Mental Health. Mental Health America. (2022). Retrieved April 8, 2022, from https://www.mhanational.org/issues/latinxhispanic-communities-and-mental-health
 American Farm Bureau Federation. (2020). Impacts of COVID-19 on Rural Mental Health. Retrieved April 8, 2022 from https://www.fb.org/files/Impacts_of_COVID-19_on_Rural_Mental_Health_1.6.21.pdf
 United States Census Bureau. (2019). Language spoken at home [Data file]. Retrieved from https://data.census.gov/cedsci/table?q=Language%20Spoken%20at%20Home&tid=ACSST1Y2019.S1601
 Hamp, A., Stamm, K., Lin, L., & Christidis, P. (2016, September). 2015 APA Survey of Psychology Health Service Providers. American Psychological Association. Retrieved April 8, 2022, from https://www.apa.org/workforce/publications/15-health-service-providers
 Griner, D., & Smith, T. B. (2006). Culturally adapted mental health intervention: A meta-analytic review. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training, 43(4), 531–548. https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-3220.127.116.111
 National Alliance on Mental Illness. (n.d.). Hispanic/Latinx. National Alliance on Mental Illness. Retrieved April 8, 2022, from https://www.nami.org/Your-Journey/Identity-and-Cultural-Dimensions/Hispanic-Latinx
 Santiago-Rivera, A. L., Altarriba, J., Poll, N., Gonzalez-Miller, N., & Cragun, C. (2009). Therapists’ views on working with bilingual Spanish–English speaking clients: A qualitative investigation. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 40(5), 436–443. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0015933
 American Psychological Association. (2020, January 1). How to pay for translation services. Monitor on Psychology. Retrieved April 8, 2022, from https://www.apa.org/monitor/2020/01/career-other-words-sidebar.html
 Brandl, E. J., Schreiter, S., & Schouler-Ocak, M. (2020). Are trained medical interpreters worth the cost? A review of the current literature on cost and cost-effectiveness. Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health, 22(1), 175–181. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10903-019-00915-4
 Vida Health. (2021, October 14). Mental health in a pandemic winter. Vida Health. Retrieved April 8, 2022, from https://blog.vida.com/blog/2021/1/11/mental-health-in-a-pandemic-winter
 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2022, January). Major depression. National Institute of Mental Health. Retrieved April 8, 2022, from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/major-depression
 U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. (2019, December 10). Chapter 7 - physical or mental disorder with associated harmful behavior. Policy Manual. Retrieved April 8, 2022, from https://www.uscis.gov/policy-manual/volume-8-part-b-chapter-7
 Chhabra, D., Fortuna, L., & Montano, P. (n.d.). Undocumented immigrants. Stress & Trauma toolkit. Retrieved April 8, 2022, from https://www.psychiatry.org/psychiatrists/cultural-competency/education/stress-and-trauma/undocumented-immigrants
 American Psychological Association. (2020). Demographics of the US Psychology Workforce [Interactive data tool]. https://www.apa.org/workforce/data-tools/demographics
 New York State Education Department. (2022, January 25). License Statistics. Office of the Professions. Retrieved April 8, 2022, from http://www.op.nysed.gov/prof/mhp/mhpcounts.htm
 Artiga, S., Hill, L., Oregera, K., & Damico, A. (2021, July 16). Health coverage by Race and ethnicity, 2010-2019. Kaiser Family Foundation. Retrieved April 8, 2022, from https://www.kff.org/racial-equity-and-health-policy/issue-brief/health-coverage-by-race-and-ethnicity/
 Kaiser Family Foundation. (2022, April 6). Health coverage of immigrants. Kaiser Family Foundation. Retrieved April 8, 2022, from https://www.kff.org/racial-equity-and-health-policy/fact-sheet/health-coverage-of-immigrants/
 Cooper, D. (2018, June 21). Workers of color are far more likely to be paid poverty-level wages than white workers. Working Economics Blog. Retrieved April 8, 2022, from https://www.epi.org/blog/workers-of-color-are-far-more-likely-to-be-paid-poverty-level-wages-than-white-workers/
 McKnight-Eily, L. R., Okoro, C. A., Strine, T. W., Verlenden, J., Hollis, N. T. D., Njai, R., Mitchell, E. W., Board, A., Puddy, R., & Thomas, C. (2021, February 5). Racial and ethnic disparities in the prevalence of stress and worry, mental health conditions, and increased substance use among adults during the COVID-19 pandemic - United States, April and May 2020. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). Retrieved April 8, 2022, from https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/70/wr/mm7005a3.htm?s_cid=mm7005a3_w
 Kluge, U., Rapp, M. A., Mehran, N., Jumaa, J., & Aichberger, M. C. (2019). Poverty, migration and mental health. Der Nervenarzt, 90(11), 1103–1108. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00115-019-00790-2