Latino men have a stereotype of being macho — tough guys who can take on anything. Whether that generalization is real or not, when it comes to dealing with depression, Latinos would rather sweep that taboo subject under the rug. But what does that mean for the women in their lives — especially daddy’s little girl?
A recent study that surveyed 16,000 Latinos, ages 18 to 74 in four diverse communities (New York, Chicago, San Diego, and Miami), showed that 27 percent reported high levels of depressive symptoms, and yet only 5 percent of them used antidepressants.
If Latinos are identified as a “high-risk group for depression, anxiety, and substance abuse,” (prevalence of depression is higher in Latino women (46 percent) than Latino men (19.6 percent), though are not seeking treatment, as this report shows, then how is the depression being dealt with, if at all?
Depression is prevalent within the entire family circle so it affects Latino families harder. Latino families — for the most part — have a very close bond, so talking about anything that has to do with mental health is perceived as shameful, and a sign of weakness, says Michelle Lopez, co-founder of an organization called Dignity University, who works closely with students, teens, and families.
Men are also good at masking the typical symptoms of depression, which normally include showing disinterest, fatigue, overeating or appetite loss, feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness, (click here for a complete list of the symptoms).
“Everyone masks depression in their own way,” Lopez says.
“Men in particular express their emotions differently than women, from becoming easily frustrated, being irritable, getting angry. It can even lead to abuse. Some men, to cope with their depression, can turn to alcohol, drugs, and infidelity or even throw themselves at work to avoid feeling or talking about it.”
Dealing with a father who has depression can be extremely difficult for a daughter because they, sometimes, put their father on a pedestal. And, idolizing a person, especially someone with depression, isn’t healthy for anyone. So how can a daughter deal with a depressed dad?
"Watching my father deal with depression is even more heartbreaking because he doesn't believe in depression," says New Jersey-based editor Cindy Rodriguez of her father. "He says people just need to shake it off. So how can I help someone who won't even acknowledge they have a problem?"
“It’s hard for someone that doesn’t want to get help, or doesn’t have the resources,” says Dior Vargas, outreach coordinator at the non-profit Project UROK that helps with de-stigmatizing mental illness. Of all major racial/ethnic groups, “Latinos have the lowest rates of health insurance coverage,” a Pew study show
If men aren’t willing to seek professional care because of shame or limited resources, sometimes the only people who can help are those closest to them. While daughters dealing with a depressed dad may not be able to tackle this issue on their own, there are ways to help.“In terms of being of supportive, definitely be there to listen to them,” Vargas says.
“People with depression feel like they can’t express themselves, so a lot is bottled up. So when you open the door to someone with depression, make sure you don’t make the experience about yourself, make it about the person that you are reaching out to.”
Rodriguez says she works with her dad by keeping him distracted.
"What I try to do is take him out with me and keep him busy. It's actually the only time he vents about his worries or whatnot," Rodriguez says. "I think us driving around in my car puts him at ease because there isn't any face to face confrontation."
An important element to keep in mind is to always remain sensitive toward someone battling depression. “It’s important not to force your way of doing things,” Lopez said. “To a person who is depressed, reality is different.”
Here are some other vital points Lopez makes:
- Listen and do not dis-invalidate what they are feeling.
- Give them hope and always encourage them to share and take action on the things that matter to them.
- Let them know you care and that you are there for them.
- Stay on them as depression leaves gradually. It does take time and can come back if not treated properly.
- Educate yourselves on depression. The more you understand about depression and the more they understand, the easier it becomes to acknowledge what’s going on.
- Let them know it’s normal and with treatment, this can easily be lifted from them.