TESTIMONIAL: Mental illness needs to be taken more seriously in the Mexican community


Magaly Muñoz

A subject that I try to ignore, yet always gets brought up in my day-to-day life, is mental illness.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but I avoid all of my very obvious depressive and anxious symptoms until they’re looking me straight in the face. My thought process is that if I don’t acknowledge them, they’ll go away. 

I’m fully aware that there’s a clear problem with this. A lot of it has to do with the environment that I was raised in. 

I grew up in a stereotypical Mexican household. Yes, we’re loud, yes, we have huge families and yes, we party ‘till dawn, but we’re also the most hardworking people you’ll ever meet.

But lying under all that greatness, comes our biggest downfall: pride.

I know what you’re thinking. “What does this have to do with mental illness?” But it has everything to do with it.

What I’ve noticed, and a lot of my friends and family that I’ve spoken to have noticed, is that Mexican parents hate admitting that there is anything wrong with their kids.

They crossed borders and faced years of discrimination to give their children everything they never had, so why would they admit to their loved ones that they failed as parents?

They would rather focus on letting the outside world think that everything was OK than putting that same effort into helping their kids cope with their issues.

Don’t get me wrong, not all Mexican parents are like this and many would drop everything to help their kids. But more often than not, I see the trend I’m talking about manifest among this culture and the young adults in it.

I’ve heard too many times from friends that after a medical professional has suggested to  parents that maybe their kids should seek help, the parents ignore it and claim that the kids’ problems are “all in their heads.” 

As if mental illness occurred anywhere else.

Other times, when I’ve spoken to family members about the struggles that my cousins and I go through, like difficulties in school or our daunting work hours, they quickly dismiss me and say, “Would you rather be working under the hot sun for hours or cooking and cleaning all day at home?” 

Most of the time they don’t even want to acknowledge that while we don’t do the laborious things that they do, we also go through extremely hard times.

It’s hard growing up in this current society. We’re all constantly worried about what other people think of us and using their judgements as validity to how we should feel about ourselves. Or we’re freaking out about where we’ll be in a few years and if we’ll even be successful.
It’s like we can’t make any mistakes for fear of disappointing our parents and all the struggles they’ve endured just for us. And if you think this is a healthy mentality to have every time you mess up, trust me, it’s not. 

When your anxiety is ignored as just “something you’re making up,” it can be extremely difficult to open up about anything to those same people that are constantly dismissing you.

Latinx kids want to be the best because we’re so determined to give our generation’s culture a better reputation than the one that precedes us, but at what cost are we breaking down these stereotypes? Are we really risking our mental sanity just to prove to a bunch of people who really don’t matter, that we’re good enough?

I’ve dealt with years of anxiety, but the only thing that’s kept me from speaking up is feeling like I won’t be good enough for my parents’ standards. All I’ve heard over the past few years from family and even from random strangers, is how proud my parents are of me and how they think I’m the hardest working person they know.
I never want my mental issues to get in the way of their perfect idea of me, even if I know that they would do absolutely anything for me. All I have to do is ask.

This isn’t a diss at my parents or even toward my culture. Believe me, there’s nothing I love more than being Mexican, but I know we’re not perfect people. 

There are changes that need to be made if we’re ever going to make progress in helping this generation of kids. They shouldn’t have to grow up ignored and neglected by the very people that lovingly brought them into this world.

If you are experiencing episodes of mental illness, please call the National Alliance on Mental Illness at (800)-950-NAMI or text “NAMI” to 741741, and they will direct you to the best helpline to fit your situation.