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Why Many Latinx Are Left Out of the Wellness and Mental Health Conversation

Samantha Leal

It's 2019, and wellness, self-care, and mental health are on everyone's agenda. Whether tied to marketing tactics or health initiatives, the talk about taking care of one’s mind and body (and how interconnected those two are) is very much top of mind for many. And it must be said that wellness and mental health are not synonymous—that's true. But the wellness movement, spurred on by the current pop-culture and news focus, has put more focus on self-care and mental health in recent years. We're told to seek help when we need it, both from friends and relatives, and even from social media and song lyrics. We're told to take time for ourselves. (In a marketer’s eyes, that’s preferably done with a sheet mask.) We're told to go on retreats and rediscover ourselves. But this movement largely ignores one group: Latinx.

Hispanics. Latinos. Latinx. Are we an ethnic group? Are we a cultural group? Are we a race? For years, America and the census have tried to understand this multifaceted group, to label it, to figure it out. It's 2019, and we're still largely on the sidelines. We've reclaimed the moniker of the identity (Latinx) but are often left out of the conversation. Why? Because no one knows how to do it successfully. Because it's too hard to address all of us at all times. Because, well, marketing tends to focus on one type of person, and that person is not Latinx.

Latinx make headlines when targeted (e.g., anti-immigration rhetoric or, conversely, market power) but are largely ignored in discussions of diversity, inclusion, and POC-speak. And it (sort of) makes sense. We're black, we're white, we're brown. We're English-dominant; we're Spanish-speaking only. We're immigrants. We're American-born. We're indigenous. We're everywhere in between and exist on all spectrums. How does one address a non-monolithic group?

To meet us where we are, you have to go further. Stigma is real when it comes to mental health in many Latinx communities. No one wants to be labeled loco. No one should be sharing his or her family issues—that's private. No one should be weak. No one needs medication—any bad symptoms or thoughts will go away on their own. At least, that's what many are brought up to believe. When we do seek help, we're often at a disadvantage already. Minority communities are largely ignored when it comes to access to healthcare, and Spanish natives find it hard to open up with limited English.

On the flip side, herbal remedies are prevalent among our community—there's a ton of history here, like that of curanderismo, or the use of spiritual healers. Smudging is used by many in the Latinx community, and homeopathic practices aren't foreign to us. So why, exactly, are we very rarely targeted in that particular wellness space?

In the past, marketing always targeted Latinx with one thing: Spanish. But as anyone in our community knows, Spanish is not the definitive thing that marks a Latinx. In fact, many U.S.-born Latinx don't speak the language. It's not the true answer to understanding the Latinx group. But without that being the focus, people are lost. The ties of community, of family, of culture—no one is speaking to that. It's quite a shame, and until that piece of the puzzle is solved, we're not going to get anywhere.

Next up: A Letter to My Eating Disorder in Anticipation of New York Fashion Week

This article originally appeared on The Thirty

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