The Latinx community is an extremely diverse group- in race, languages spoken, and country of origin. Latinx people have many intersecting identities, like identifying as LGBTQ+, belonging to different racial/ethnic identities (e.g., Afro-Latinxs), and diversity in immigration status or religious beliefs. They have unique mental health challenges that set them apart from other populations. Mental health issues, like serious mental illness, depression, suicide, and substance use, are steadily on the rise in Latinx communities.
My name is Dr. Camila Pulgar, and I am a researcher, therapist, and consultant in Winston Salem, North Carolina. I am also a research faculty at Wake University Forest School of Medicine, and I own a mental health awareness business called Salud Mental Health, where I bring mental health awareness materials and resources to our local Latinx community.
My clinical and research expertise is suicide and suicide prevention in the Latinx community. In addition to this being a topic of research for me, though, it’s also a very personal subject for me.
I am the oldest of four, and one of my younger brothers is a suicide attempt survivor. My brother was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) in 2010 and attempted to take his life in 2015. It was an event that left our entire family in shock.
My family and I immigrated from Chile to North Carolina in 2004. In Chile, salud mental wasn’t something we spoke about, ever. It was entirely new to us, to me. When we heard things like depression, we thought, “What? ¿Qué?” As the oldest daughter and only woman, I felt the family pressure and responsibility to help my family navigate this situation. However, I quickly realized that I wasn't equipped to do so since I was young and didn't have the knowledge I have now.
All I knew was that I was terrified of losing my brother.
As recently arrived immigrants, navigating a foreign mental health system was a messy and frustrating process. During all of those years that my family needed support in our native language, we never received it. I think a lot of my motivation to become a therapist came from this experience with my brother.
That fear I felt is a very common feeling among family members with a suicidal loved one: fear of losing them, fear of not being able to be there for them, and overall fear of what suicidal thoughts and behaviors can lead to. I lived with that fear for a very long time. Helping my brother and family find mental health care, even though I didn't know what I know now, eventually paid off. My brother was able to find the care and guidance he needed.
You will often hear, know the signs of suicide. Although knowing the signs is key to supporting a loved one who is suicidal, it is also important to know that the signs look different in everyone. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, these are signs we must pay close attention to:
- Substance use problems
- Bipolar disorder
- Personality traits of aggression, mood changes and poor relationships
- Conduct disorder
- Anxiety disorders
- Serious physical health conditions including pain
- Traumatic brain injury
- Access to lethal ways of dying, including firearms and drugs
- Prolonged stress, such as harassment, bullying, relationship problems, or unemployment
- Stressful life events, like rejection, divorce, financial crisis, or other life transitions or loss
- Exposure to another person’s suicide, or to graphic or sensationalized accounts of suicide
- Previous suicide attempts
- Family history of suicide
- Childhood abuse, neglect, or trauma
As in many immigrant Latinx families, acculturation-related stress affects all areas of life. We were adjusting to a new life in a new country and we were at a loss, we didn't know the mental health system. Acculturative stress has been linked to depression and suicide in Latinx immigrants. This combined with enviromental and biological risk factors of suicide puts Latinx individuals at a higher risk for suicide and suicidal behaviors.
Reflect on what this means for you and your family. Is there a pull to acculturate to the “American” culture? Is there conflict between family members when this happens? Do you feel pressured to avoid speaking Spanish? All of these conflicting experiences affect our mental health, putting us at higher risk for suicidal behaviors and thoughts.
With what I know now, I know there is hope. It’s ok to talk about depression, anxiety, trauma, and our fears. It is ok to not be ok, and it's ok to ask for help. There is help out there. Although, maybe, where you live, there might be a shortage of mental health providers who speak your native language, who look like you, or who “get it.” That’s why companies like mine are working to increase access to information and resources for our communities. With time, you can also have the treatment you need and that my brother eventually found and has helped him live a fulfilling life.
If you or a loved ones struggles with suicidal thoughts, all you need to do is call the national hotline number: 988. I would also recommend looking for a therapist in your area, and you can also reach out to me via my website for guidance.
Suicide is prevalent in our community, but it doesn’t have to paralyze us. I am glad you are here, and I am happy to offer resources that help you live a fulfilling life.
Camila Angelica Pulgar, Ph.D. LMCHC is a former member of both the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention-NC Chapter (AFSPNC) and the National Latino Behavioral Health Association (NLBHA).
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In The Community
According to the Pew Research Center, 47% of Latinos identify with their country of origin, and 39% by Hispanic or Latino. When the vast majority of the Latine community identifies with personalized AND broad catch-all’s, how do most people figure out what race box to put themselves in? (and yes, at Luz Media we use all the terms interchangeably – we’re certainly not going to attempt to be the arbiter of this topic desmadroso!)
During this “Hispanic Heritage Month,” however, we can come together in community and identify however you think is most accurate and appropriate, and leave the judgment at home for how others also choose to identify. We’re looking at you, Latinx-haters.
Now without getting into the discussion of race, which is a whole PhD curriculum, we’re instead sticking to the superficial topic of identity labels that exist for Latinos, Latinx, Hispanic, and WHATEVER YOU CALL YOURSELF (and what non-Latinos call us).
Yeah, yeah, we know we’re tired of this label, and of course, it’s problematic because it highlights the language and, therefore, the heritage from Spain. Paloma Celis Carbajal states that the term Hispanic came to prominence in the late 1960s, and it wasn’t until 1980 that the term Hispanic first appeared on the U.S. Census. At least for a while, Hispanic was the go-to term when referring to people with heritage from Spanish-speaking countries in Latin America. It has since fallen out of favor for what was once considered the more “accurate” term for our community, “Latino.” Read on…
After the controversy of Hispanic, the Latino term arrived! Felicidades, mi gente! The already known and widely used term appeared in 1997, where, according to Carbajal, the Office of Management and Budget issued a directive adding the term Latino to government publications, and it appeared on the 2000s Census as Hispanic/Latino. It intends to be a catch-all for people with origins from all Latin-American countries, and a few Caribbean countries.
The problem? Not everyone is from Latin America – ummm, hello native Mexicans before the Mexican-American War, and is this when we talk about some Brazilians and other South Americans who don’t consider themselves Latino or Indigenous who opt to identify as White? The answer to the latter is absolutely not. Have that discussion on your own with an Argentinian in your life. Needless to say, the catch-all “Latino” has more holes in it than our old chanclas that we refuse to get rid of.
A new term! It’s the gender-neutral version of Latino or Latina. It exists to be more inclusive and considerate of non-binary folks who are part of the Latinx community. It’s most often used amongst young, liberal, and college-educated Hispanics. Here at Luz Media, we like it because we like the spirit of it.
That being said, we get it. The main argument we often hear is that the term is an affront to the Spanish language, which is a gendered language. And dios guarde, we can’t change the basics of our mother tongue! Considering that Spanish is the language of colonizers and if the genocide of indigenous Latin-Americans had never happened, most of us non-Spanish people would be speaking local native languages and dialects, we don’t buy the “our Spanish is sacred” argument, but we do buy the argument and fact that the very vast majority of people simply do not identify this way. The Pew Research Center reports that 1 in 4 U.S. Hispanics are familiar with the Latinx label, but just 3% actually use it. They also report that young hispanic women the the most likely to use it.
Latinx is ironically often criticized for the same reason Hispanic fell from grace – the term is said to have originated from high-brow academia and the scholarly “woke” that has a largely U.S. and English-based construct, and therefore doesn’t really accurately represent the large population that includes first-generation immigrants.
The evolution of language takes time, and we’re open to waiting for the adoption of this one or the transition into the next one.
Speaking of which, wait no further, gente hermosa!! Latine has entered the building. Pronounced LAA-TIN-AYE, and as expected, all new terms are challenged, making Latinx no exception. Remember that Spanish language critique? Turns out a lot of people respect that critique, and to be the everlasting people of peace (that didn’t go well for our ancestors…), the term Latine can be more easily integrated into the pronunciation of Spanish. So now the gender-neutral term is pronounceable and usable within the confines of the Spanish language.
Latine might be the newest edition to the label game, and it seems to be one of the more accepted forms to address our gente. With Latine being a term easily pronounceable in Spanish, it looks like this term (though initially the underdog) is here to stay.
But hold up, hold up. According to the 2019 U.S. Census Bureau population estimate, among Hispanic subgroups (their word, not ours), Mexicans made up the largest group at 61.4 percent. Following with: Puerto Ricans (9.6 percent), Central Americans (9.8 percent), South Americans (6.4 percent), and Cubans (3.9 percent). So we would be remiss if we didn’t mention the OG label, Chicano.
This label is used primarily in the Southwestern U.S. and amongst Mexicans. It’s a combination of Mexican and American and was used as a pejorative word at first. When Mexicans joined their Black brothers and sisters in the quest for Civil Rights in the 1960s, the term was proudly reclaimed in an effort to rid the word of its negative connotations. Wikipedia tells us it was Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales, who was one of the first to reclaim the term.
In today’s quest to seek personal truth and proud identity, the term is experiencing a bit of a resurgence amongst newly minted young Chicano activists.
The term Afro-Latin@/x/e has recently emerged into widespread use as a response to the invisibility and intentional erasure of Latin-American and Caribbean people with African heritage. To further expand, Black Latinos is the label to account for Latinos who are mixed race, or don’t identify with the “afro” description. The rise in popularity of the terms has helped discuss and address the rampant anti-blackness and colorism within the Latino community both in our native Latin-American countries and at home in the United States.
These terms, specifically as it relates to Afro and Black Latinos, are evolving even faster than the rest because after being ignored and discriminated against for so long, the Afro-Latino community has a lot to say about their experience and identity. Rightly so, and we’re here for it.
We know our people will have something to say after this roundup. Did we miss any? (wasn’t intentional!) Don’t cuss us out. We’re just the messengers. Luz Media is run by Latinas, and we’re for Latinas, but in our coverage of topics and people, we go out of our way to refer to people the way they identify themselves. Don’t let this article give you high blood pressure; remember, at the end of the day, we’re all just people doing our best (most of us, anyway, some people actually do suck).
The Emmy Awards always stirs up excitement amongst fans when their favorite artists are nominated. With fan favorites and meme-worthy shows like “Euphoria” and “Stranger Things,” what’s not to be excited about? What’s not exciting is how once again, Latinos were largely absent from the nominations despite incredible performances by Latino actors.
One of the biggest snubs was Selena Gomez for her role as Mabel Mora in Hulu’s “Only Murders in the Building.” The show earned stellar audience reviews across the board and Gomez’s character “Mabel” is one of the most intriguing parts of the show. Naturally, many were upset that Gomez was overlooked for an award. Gomez did, however, get a nomination for producer of best comedy series, becoming the second ever Latina to receive this nomination.
Only two Latinos were nominated for this year’s awards. Guatemalan-American Oscar Isaac was nominated for Lead Actor in a Limited or Anthology Series Movie for his role in HBO Max’s “Scenes from a Marriage” but didn’t win. Colman Domingo, who is Guatemalan-Black, was nominated for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series for “Euphoria,” becoming the only Latino to take home an award last night.
Emmys 2022 backstage: Colman Domingo ('Euphoria') wins for Best Drama Guest Actor | GOLD DERBY www.youtube.com
While this Latino exclusion re-run is rightfully upsetting, not all was lost on the diversity front. The night was a big one for Black women, with Zendaya, Lizzo, Quinta Brunson, and Sheryl Lee Ralph all taking home awards last night.
\u201cSo many beautiful, deserving Black women getting their flowers tonight. I could cry #Emmys #Emmys2022\u201d— McKenzie Jean-Philippe (@McKenzie Jean-Philippe) 1663036061
Competition Program: 74th Emmy Awards www.youtube.com
On another high note for representation, Netflix’s major hit “Squid Games” made history as the first foreign-language drama to win top honors at the television industry’s Emmy Awards, after creator Hwang Dong-hyuk won outstanding directing and Lee Jung-Jae, who was the protagonist of the show, won the Emmy for best actor in a drama series.
For Latinos on the small screen, the struggle continues.
The lyrics have inspired responses to non-Latinos appropriating Latinx culture, leading to the creation of messages like the one below:
@badbunny tuvo tanta razón con esta linea. These #mexicancore trends are YT erasure of latinos who by the way, come in all colors. But we all have infigenous ancestry. #spawater #cowboycaviar #mexicancornsalad #aguafresca #culturalappropriation #littlemexicangirlcore
There’s a fine line between appreciation and appropriation when it comes to expressions of culture, but some lines aren’t fine lines at all. Spa water is a prime example of extreme cultural ignorance that resulted in outright absurdity. Bad Bunny’s lyrics highlight how normal it is for non-Latinos to claim or appropriate Latinx culture when convenient and how easy it is to outright steal the culture and re-name it any old thing - “clean girl aesthetic” anyone?
In response to this, the internet is fighting back against non-Latinos who are claiming Latinidad for their own benefit:
Ahora todos quieren ser latino... pero les falta sazón. #puertorico #boricua #parati #fyp #viral #🇵🇷 #puertorico🇵🇷 #puertoricotiktok #latino #latinos #latinotiktok #parati #hispanic #fyp #viral #badbunny #badbunnypr
#pegar un video de @its.me.again_07