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Mental Health Stigma

Supporting Latino Men and Their Mental Health

Latino men are less likely to seek mental health services than women.

Key points

  • Men face mental health conditions at the same rate as women, yet they seek less mental health support.
  • Promoting mental health is a whole-family, whole-community effort.
  • More Latino, male mental health clinicians are needed to destigmatize men's mental health.

This is part three in a three-part series.

Personally and professionally, I have observed that women tend to be more comfortable discussing their feelings, their personal struggles, and mental health in general, and this is true even in our Latino community. Latino men can be influenced by the heaviness that comes with systems of oppression, such as machismo and sexism, that place men at risk of hiding their emotions, suppressing vulnerability, and being afraid of asking for help. If we are not careful, even women may uphold these harmful systems of oppression—this shows up through shaming men who show vulnerability, seek comfort, and ask for help. Thankfully, things are changing, as modeled by Bad Bunny’s appearance on SNL, and men are becoming more comfortable talking about mental health. To help me delve deeper into this topic, I spoke to Luis Resendez, a Latino clinician who focuses on men's mental health.

Luis Resendez / Used with permission
Source: Luis Resendez / Used with permission

As a Latino man, what hit you hardest from the skit?

Luis Resendez: What hit me hard was the degree of possessiveness Pedro Pascal's mother had toward her son Luis [played by Marcello Hernandez], despite him being a grown man looking to establish himself as an adult. It is something many Latino men I know in my personal and professional life have had to contend with. My concern with this also relates to how such men who've had an [well-meaning] overly involved mother in their lives, could set a precedence in what as men they could one way or another expect from a potential partner. Another part that stood out to me was the attitude Luis' mother had toward his partner in that no matter how much she expressed interest in getting to know her [mother] and being a good partner to Luis, la novia [the girlfriend] would never be good enough for her son. This is a theme of concern that many Latino men in my personal and professional life have shared with me.

As one of the few Latino mental health clinicians, what do you want people to know about the mental health needs of Latino men?

LR: Many Latino men are dealing with external and internal (sometimes within their own communities and families, but also within their own minds) stressors affecting their mental health. Many Latino men are dealing with the anxieties of economic uncertainty that has enveloped the nation as a whole, and the necessity ingrained in their consciousness through generational conditioning, that they need to [economically] provide for their families and give them a better life than the ones they were raised in. Oftentimes, these lives are marred by poverty, discrimination, and even historical trauma endured by them of their parents leaving their home countries for a life in the US. Simultaneously many Latino men are internally struggling with the views and ideas of machismo influencing their need to be self-reliant, "strong," while refraining from being vulnerable.

Can you help us dissect one dynamic depicted in the video that you find to be common and very important to support men's mental health?

LR: Based on what was portrayed in the skit, I would guess Luis' mother's views (as many people in the Latino community) on mental health are influenced by family, cultural, and religious factors. At the end of the day, the best course of action to educate people within the Latino community regarding mental health is to give an opportunity to Latinos who are in the mental health profession to share their expertise. Bilingual Latino mental health providers would be a cherry on top. If people in the Latino community can already identify with someone who comes from a similar background, or even looks like them for that matter, it would substantially increase their engagement in such psychoeducational dialogue (via community talks, or even presentations on channels such as Telemundo) and help shift things to more of an understanding and awareness on their parts. Simultaneously, I think it is the responsibility of family and people in general in the Latino communities to remind our men that emotions are part of human existence, we all have them, and it is perfectly fine to seek professional help when they become too overwhelming to bear.

Could you offer some examples of how these dynamics show up in your clinical spaces? Why does our Latino community need these spaces and conversations?

LR: I have experienced cases in which Latina spouses and daughters accompany an important man [husband, father] to their initial sessions due to their concerns about his emotional well-being. The involvement of these women has been invaluable to engage these men whose initial reticence and reluctance to open up about their issues would lead to initial stagnancy in my work with them.

In one of your social media posts, you talk about how men need to be held, and you encourage partners to hold the men in their lives. Can you go further about why touch, embrace, compassion, and connection are so important for mental health? How does this relate to the "tough love" that we may see in a lot of Latino households?

LR: Physical touch is something all human beings crave in one form or another. It is essential for mental health due to its ability to trigger the release of oxytocin, the "bonding hormone," fostering feelings of trust and connection. It also reduces stress by lowering cortisol levels and induces the release of endorphins, contributing to an improved mood. Touch promotes social connection, reinforcing bonds crucial for emotional well-being, and has the capacity to regulate the autonomic nervous system, leading to a sense of balance and relaxation. In early development, physical touch is vital for creating secure attachments that lay the foundation for long-term psychological well-being. Additionally, touch can have analgesic effects, reducing the perception of pain and promoting overall physical and emotional comfort. Men are reluctant to ask for this due to the notion that the vulnerability associated with seeking and receiving physical touch equates to weakness, which is something many men want to avoid appearing to have.

How can people learn more about this topic?

LR: Please check out my book, What About Dad? Understanding and Addressing Postpartum Depression in Men. In it, I share my experiences in dealing with postpartum depression (PPD) after the birth of my first son. I discuss how PPD uniquely affects men, and I describe the steps we can take to raise awareness of it and encourage more men to seek support. As a Latino male, I am beyond grateful to share my vulnerabilities in dealing with PPD and hope to inspire men to seek support if they are dealing with it as well.

As Latinos, we must band together to support our community’s efforts to improve our collective mental health. Familismo and collectivism are key values in our Latino culture that can protect our mental health when implemented well. We thrive when we work together and empower each other to embrace our full humanity.

To find a therapist, visit the Psychology Today Therapy Directory.


Luis Resendez (He/El, Latino/Mexican-American/Chicano) is owner of Vida Emotional Wellness in Riverside, CA, and author of What About Dad? Understanding and Addressing Postpartum Depression in Men.

Readers may also be interested in the other two parts of this series: about Erik Cardenas, who is building Zocalo Health, a virtual primary care practice for Latinos by Latinos, and Dr. Lisa Fortuna, a psychiatrist, researcher, leader, and public health advocate, who discusses Latino mental health stigma and shared language.

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