Mental health care services still struggle to meet the basic needs of most Utahns. With high suicide rates and depression, and the state still battling out the ban on conversion therapy that continues to harm the lives of those in the LGBTQ community, sometimes it feels like many Utahns are going without access to or use of mental health care treatment.

As recently reported by Daily Herald reporter Braley Dodson, many Latinos in Utah face a unique set of barriers in obtaining mental health treatment, in addition to cultural stigmas about what mental health care is all about.

About 17% of Hispanics have a diagnosable mental, behavioral or emotional disorder, and 3.6% had serious thoughts about, made plans or attempted suicide, according to data from Mental Health America.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) estimates “approximately 33% of Latino adults with mental illness receive treatment each year compared to the U.S. average of 43%.”

Among the barriers Latinos routinely face in getting mental health care are language barriers, privacy concerns, concerns related to living in the country illegally and lack of health insurance.

Language barriers are a big part of services in Utah.

One thing a local Utah clinic, Wasatch Mental Health, has found that will increase and improve services for Latinos is adding more Spanish-speaking staff, including at the front desk, case managers and providers, in addition to more signs and paperwork in both English and Spanish.

These steps are ones that could and should be applied to mental health clinics across the state to better serve Utah’s population. More clinics need to hire bilingual counselors, therapists and doctors. The decision makers in our state education system needs to exert greater efforts to attract bilingual talent to fill these needed roles in our communities in order to increase and improve service.

Beyond that, a significant barrier for many people, and not just Latinos, is socioeconomic status and affordability. Like much of health care, finding a provider for mental health care that an individual can meet with regularly usually comes with a costly price tag — and little to no insurance support. That’s money many Utahns might not be able to afford to spend if, for example, their wages are tied up in the skyrocketing cost of housing. If a person has to choose between a place to live and mental health care ... which one do you think they’re going to pick?

Until our communities, businesses and insurance companies more regularly demand and view mental health care as necessary as other physical ailments, it is a problem that will continue to plague all ethnicities and ages, and especially Utah’s Latinos.

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