Latino Culture and Mental Health

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Latino Culture and Mental Health


This paper provides an insight into the Latino culture, and how this culture influences mental health. Being among the most growing cultures in the United States, the focus continues to shift onto them especially with regards to bipolar disorder. Additionally, gender roles especially that of women in mental health, is equally important given that women are the center for care in most cultures, with the Latino being no exception. Therefore several scholarly articles were reviewed with regards to Latino Culture and the role of women in health. Whereas most articles praise the cultural values norms and beliefs of the Latinos, one alarming issue is quite clear; the male-dominance within the culture negatively affects mental health, since these individuals are far removed from the caregiving setting and environment, which falls under the purview of women who do not have much power to help increase health outcomes. However, practitioners can easily overcome this by acculturation, which involves understanding the cultures rich values.

Keywords:  [Latino Culture, Bipolar Disorder, Male-dominance]











The Latino population represents a highly diverse community within the United States. At the same time, they comprise a fast-growing ethnic minority in the country and are projected to make a third of the country’s total population in 2050. The Latino already makes up a large percentage of several States, and in a state like Texas, Hispanic from which the Latino is part of, they make up 50 percent. On the other hand, bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that causes extreme mood swings and emotional instability. While the white community will rush individuals to the hospital regarding mental health, research points to worrying health within the Latino culture, where families avoid being labeled as having crazy people. As such, this paper delves into the Latino Culture in an attempt to understand how the culture influences and effects, Bipolar disorder (Roncancio, Ward, & Berenson, 2012).


Latinos have a deep history that is quite broad, ranging and spanning for at least four centuries. However, the Latinos became the first American citizens in the new southwestern territory, after the Mexican-American War, and remained a majority in those states up to around the 20th century. Initially, Spanish settlement was responsible for the entry of Hispanics, and Latino in Northern America, although the Spanish were unable to create a colony like other expeditionary such as the French in Louisiana or British. Later after the industrial revolution and the end of American slavery, as well as the end of the Mexican War which saw the United States take hold of Texas the Latino ethnic groups continued to grow, especially with immigration from South America to the North due to its promise for a better lifestyle. Fast forward to 1970, the population of Hispanics within the United States was 9.6 million, rising to 44.3 million in 2006. With special music, cuisines and religious and health beliefs, the Latinos have subsequently been in a position to create a niche for themselves in the United States, and continue to influence the broader United States significantly.


Representation in the United States

In Texas, the Latin population is the most diverse and largest minority ethnic group. Most of the Latin people, especially those who immigrated into the United States have lower levels of education which result in them securing low-income jobs. These jobs do not provide health insurance; hence mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder are pushed at the bottom of the priority list. Latinos also experience disparities not only in accessing health care but also in the quality of services that they receive at the institutions. Besides, some Latinos who are undocumented in America may opt not to seek medical services for their bipolar disorders due to the fear of deportation (Abraido-Lanza, Echeverria, & Florez, 2016).

Collectivism in Latin Culture

Latin culture can be described as a collective society. Individuals in this culture are raised to put the interests of the group over personal interests. Communities in Latin culture are family oriented, and it is quite common to see the extended family closely knit in theory interactions with each other. This collectivism may sometimes make Latino bipolar patients to seek medication due to the stigma. The patients fear being perceived as mentally ill and weak in their groups (Roncancio, Ward, & Berenson, 2012; Siantz, Castaneda, Benavente, Peart, & Felt, 2013). The fear of stigma may lead to misdiagnosis as the patients may hide some of the symptoms from the doctor as they do not want to be ridiculed. In most cases, doctors are forced to put aside the emotional approach of bipolar disorder and explain the mental condition to Latino patients in physical terms in attempts to make them comfortable with medication.


Religion is an essential part of Latin culture. People in Latin societies possess a strong belief in faith, and a majority of them are Catholic. However, this strong spiritualist belief system often results in ignorance of mental ill health. Incidences such as hearing unidentified voices and hallucinations may be brushed off as unknown spirits from other realms trying to reach out. Random visions, especially those involving angels and spirits may not be viewed as symptoms of bipolar disorder rather a circumstance where one is experiencing a spiritual awakening.

Art in Latin culture

Art is quite rich among the Latin people with varieties in visual art, music, architecture, and dance. The culture is rich in visual arts that developed since the indigenous baroque paintings. One of the most popular Latino painters is Frida Kahlo. Music in the culture is diverse due to the many ethnic groups. Salsa is one of the essential dances in the Latin community.


Respeto is an essential value in Latin culture. Individuals are expected to show utmost respect not only to authorities but also to each other in their interactions. Doctors ought to be aware of this value and strive to create a free and relaxed atmosphere. This understanding is necessary because the patient or the family of the patient may hesitate to ask questions due to the fear of appearing disrespectful. The other value is uncertainty avoidance (fatalismo) which may make the Latino to have a relaxed attitude towards mental health. The health sector should, therefore, educate them on the symptoms of bipolar disorder and how to manage it. The Latino people have a value of simpatia which implies kindness and politeness (Roncancio, Ward, & Berenson, 2012). They may, therefore, view the doctor’s professional behavior as impolite hence doctors should understand this value and know how to work with the Latino to encourage them to open up about their mental health and remain on bipolar disorder medication.


Latino cultures in the United States and beyond is primarily characterized by men being chauvinistic.  This chauvinism is identified as machista or machismo which represent the state of arrogance and possessiveness towards women. As such, the male attitude tends to diminish the female gender. As such these attitudes depict the male within the Latino culture as dominant, virile and independent, placing them above women in the society. Marianismo, which is the opposite of machismo, on the other hand, portrays women as submissive, chaste, and dependent which traditionally makes the male the economic provider while the females are responsible for the children and more generally domestic roles. While this tends to fall in line with other cultures, the Latino women’s roles within the society make them vulnerable to several preventable and controllable health conditions such as bipolar, since they lack an avenue to air their concerns and issue (Juckett, 2013). Furthermore, the males are more worried about running their homes, and while they will be protective, pride prevents them from taking charge in instances where family members are bipolar for fear of being labeled crazy.


As already stated, women are considered to hold a position lower than that of men with the society. As such, this male dominance affects the occupations that women are subjected to. With low education literacy rates among the Latinos, most of them are involved with low paying jobs, with the male being part of manufacturing and agricultural jobs., whereas the female is mainly left to the nanny industry, hospitality, and clerical positions. This positions dramatically diminishes the ability of women when it comes to controlling and taking charge of bipolar disorder patients who in most case require extensive and expensive care. Given that the male is removed from the care of children and aging persons, and the chauvinistic attitude of machismo, as well as the pride to against bipolar disorder the condition although noticeable, mostly goes untreated.


Acculturation implies the attempts and process of assimilating into one or another culture and removing the barriers that may exist that hinder co-existence. In healthcare, acculturation is essential as it helps nurse and other health practitioners a chance to provide health to a group with specific needs holistically. As such, for outsiders to intervene and help alleviate the ignored issue of mental health and more so bipolar disorder within the Latino culture, acculturation is mandatory.

There lies a problem with language, as a result of low education levels among the Latino’s. This low educational levels further impedes their acculturation into the Anglo-Saxon or English speaking cultures which makes achieving positive health outcomes a significant problem. As such, to acculturate into the Latino culture healthcare practitioners must be encouraged to partake in language studies which helps alleviate the fear of dealing with a stranger since they speak an understandable language (Abraido-Lanza, Echeverria, & Florez, 2016). Once the language barrier is checked, understanding the norms, values and religious beliefs and most importantly those beliefs influencing healthcare is necessary. The values of simpatia (kindness), personalismo (relationships) respeto (respect) and modestia (modesty) must also be keenly scrutinized and only then will physicians be able to impart knowledge and increase mental health outcomes among the Latino.


The Latino community continues to be among the fastest growing ethnic communities in the United States. However while the culture pays a significant emphasis on family relations, the male dominance, and its associated ego and pride, has seen bipolar patients go untreated, since families wish to keep their “crazy” relatives out of the public’s eyes. Additionally, women are hard pressed and fall way below men in the power structure within the community, which makes it even harder for such individuals, given that women who are responsible for care do not have much power. Acculturation, therefore, is necessary to help address the issue of mental health which can be done by understanding the values, norms, and beliefs of the Latino community.





Abraido-Lanza, A. F., Echeverria, S., & Florez, K. (2016). Latino Immigrants, Acculturation, and Health: Promising New Directions in Research. Annual Review of Public Health, 37(2), 219–236.

Juckett, G. (2013). Caring for Latino Patients. American Family Physician, 87(1), 48-54.

Roncancio, A. M., Ward, K., & Berenson, A. (2012). Hispanic Women’s Health Care Provider Control Expectations: The Influence of Fatalism and Acculturation. Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved, 22(2), 482–490.

Siantz, M. L., Castaneda, X., Benavente, V., Peart, T., & Felt, E. (2013). The Health Status of Latino Immigrant Women in the United States and the Future Health Policy Implications of the Affordable Care Act. Global Advances in Health and Medicine, 2(5), 70–74.