By Gabriella Corá , M.D., MBA
Although, as psychiatrists, we make a diagnosis of depression given a specific set of signs and symptoms, the way in which depression manifests may be different across cultures.
In addition to stigma, many Latinos struggle with acculturation issues, lack of insurance coverage and difficulty communicating with healthcare professionals who are not culturally proficient.
Barriers to care also affect African American communities. The diversity of the Latino, African American as well as the Asian communities is often minimized. Many believe that because someone has the same skin color or speaks the same language they have a similar set of needs. In fact, Spanish-speaking African Americans need tailored interventions to address Latino as well as African American cultural needs in order to effectively treat depression or other mental health disorders.
What to do?
1. Learn about depression: look for good sources of information.
2. Seek for help: Tell your doctor you or your loved one may be experiencing depression. If you don’t have a doctor, go to a community mental health clinic and let staff know you need help.
3. Become familiar with cultural differences in the diagnosis and treatment of depression: ask your doctor if his/her office has culturally-competent or culturally-proficient staff to help you. Cultural proficiency goes beyond speaking the language.
4. Be open to staff: Although the doctor’s office may not have culturally-competent staff, healthcare professionals may be very familiar with working across cultures. The “I can only be treated by someone who looks or talks like me” is a myth. Although this may help in the beginning, we know caring and empathic staff will be able to help you beyond gender, color, ethnicity or language.