As college students tour their new campuses where they will study and learn following in-person instruction returning for many schools, some may require mental health assistance due to the increased or added stressors that come with adjusting to higher education.
However, for some races and ethnicities, seeking help can be stigmatizing.
“Growing up for me, if you went to therapy, it was because there was something wrong with you. So you have the family, the culture pressure, and then your own pressure as a first-generation,” says Benjamin Franklin Pérez, a mental health advocate for college students and Latinos.
A study in the Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities found that Latino and Asian college students are less likely to seek mental health services, leaving about 65% of Latino students untreated.
“Most of us are afraid to seek out help, afraid to really just practice being vulnerable to counselors,” Elijah Shung, a sophomore at Sacramento State, said.
Different factors such as discrimination by providers, structural, financial, linguistic barriers, and cultural values may lead Asian and Latino students to engage less with campus mental health services than white students.
“Students perceive that it might bring shame or stigma to the family and they worry,” said Kalina Michalska, the study’s senior author, and a University of California, Riverside psychology researcher.
She added that institutions should invest in culturally sensitive treatment services.
“Some of these values are shared across students, across ethnicities and many of our students actually have really high values pertaining to family orientation, obligation,” Michalska said.
Despite resource availability in campuses, willingness to honor their cultures could also be a factor. Shung described that hesitancy as a “matter of being scared to express our feelings and really feeling misunderstood.”
Linguistic, financial, or cultural barriers also affect whether Latinos seek help. Many of them find support through other family members or religion.
“My parents came to this country from Mexico and their goal was to put food on the table and have a roof over our head. Survival. Provide. Be mom and be dad, and also work six out of seven days a week,” Pérez said.