By Robert Rosales, doctoral candidate at the Boston College School of Social Work
Rosales, who expects to graduate this coming August, counts health access and disparities among Latino populations as his research interests. He is writing a dissertation with the working title “If You Build it, Will They Come? Assessing the Structural and Social Characteristics of Hispanic Serving Organizations.”
Here, he delineates the important points to a recent paper published in Social Work in Health Care.
The Latino Research Seminar (LRS) consists of a group of researchers in the Boston College School of Social Work (BCSSW) who study the wellbeing of Latinos in the United States. The LRS is a branch of the Latino Leadership Initiative, a BCSSW program created to train social workers to work with Latino communities. Members of the LRS recently coauthored the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare’s Grand Challenge on the The Integration of Latina/o Immigrants into American Society. The following details an overview of an article, authored by two of the LRS members (Associate Professor Rocío Calvo and myself) and published in Social Work in Health Care, that examines the importance of integrating cultural values in mental health services to create greater access for Latinos.
The issue: Latinos’ underuse of mental health services is a pronounced issue in the United States. Although Latinos have similar rates of mental health disorders than non-Latino whites, they are less likely to use mental health services and more likely to face barriers when seeking those services. Researchers in previous literature suggest that certain, traditional cultural values can help inform Latinos’ use of mental health services. Latinos who adhere to fatalismo, a traditional cultural value that suggests fate is in the hands of a higher being, may be less likely to use health services. However, there is little research that examines the association between fatalismo and mental health service use with a national sample of Latinos.
The idea: Using data from the 2007 Pew Hispanic Center/Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Hispanic Healthcare survey, we examined the relationship between mental health service use and fatalistic beliefs in a nationally representative sample of 707 Latinos with a history of depression. We further examined if other access factors (i.e. English proficiency, health insurance coverage, a regular place of care) could better explain this relationship.
The findings: We found that:
- Latinos who reported fatalistic beliefs were less likely to use mental health services than their non-fatalistic counterparts, even after accounting for access factors.
- Fatalismo and access factors were similarly impactful in predicting mental health service use.
The next steps: Latinos’ use of mental health services is important to their mental wellbeing. Reducing the barriers they face would create greater access and assist in their use of these services. According to the findings, Latinos with fatalistic beliefs are less likely to seek mental health services even when other access factors are controlled. These findings suggest there is the need to incorporate fatalismo within the recruitment of Latinos to mental health services.
The takeaway: Social workers are at the forefront of mental health services that work with Latinos. Prior literature indicates that Latinos who feel culturally understood are more likely to use mental health services and trust their mental health provider. Therefore, greater attention to the role of fatalismo, as well as access factors, in Latinos’ decision to use mental health services could help to alleviate the barriers Latinos face when seeking mental healthcare.