Analyzing mental health stigma in Latinx/Spanish-language media

Better understanding of the portrayal of mental health stigma in Latinx/Spanish-language media is necessary to improve the use of mental health resources in Latinx populations
November 18, 2021

Little research has been conducted on mental health content in Latinx/Spanish-language media, and filling this knowledge gap could be a key step to create and improve anti-stigma content in this media in the future.

Over the next couple of years, Melissa J. DuPont-Reyes, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology & Biostatistics at the Texas A&M University School of Public Health, hopes to do just that. In an article published in Psychiatric Services, DuPont-Reyes discusses the breadth and depth of that knowledge gap as well as what is currently known about this area of study.

Latinx people with mental illness underutilize mental services when compared with non-Latinx white people, with less than 10 percent of Latinx adults who have mental illness receiving specialty care for mental health conditions according to one study cited by DuPont-Reyes. The rate of mental health service use for Latinx adolescents is even lower.

The overall stigma associated with mental illness is higher in Latinx populations than in non-Latinx white populations, and previous research cited by DuPont-Reyes has indicated that Latinx/Spanish-language media could be a source of stigma, particularly for Latinx adolescents.

Research on mental health stigma and its portrayal in media does exist, but this research has focused almost entirely on English-language media and largely excluded minority groups and voices. Although studies examining the intersection of mass gun violence, mental health and stigma have taken on greater relevance in light of recent mass shootings, this area of research has also failed to include Latinx/Spanish-language media.

A few studies have analyzed mental illness-related content in Spanish-language newspapers. One study cited by DuPont-Reyes showed that they contain significantly more negative portrayals of mental illness than English-language newspapers and provide drastically less information on mental health resources. The stark differences and reinforcement of stigma suggested by these findings may be particularly worrying for young Latinx/Spanish media consumers. Research on anti-stigma interventions also lacks representation for Latinx populations, creating yet another knowledge void that needs to be filled to better address mental illness treatment gaps in underserved Latinx communities.

Latinx/Spanish-language media has been shown to have considerable reach and influence and thus could be a powerful means of addressing mental illness stigma and providing information for Latinx media consumers on mental health resources. However, the gaps in health communication research on mental health stigma and resources in Latinx/Spanish-language media must first be better understood.

– by Kelly Tucker

— Tim Schnettler

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