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October 2022

Am J Community Psychol. 1979 Oct; 7(5): 503-20.

Barriers between mental health services and Mexican Americans: an examinations of a paradox.

Acosta FX.

The paradox of underutilization of mental health services by Mexican Americans is critically examined. It is argued that Mexican Americans live under high levels of psychological and environmental stress that would ordinarily lead to mental health problems and an increased utilization of mental health services. A number of barriers to the use of mental health services by Mexican Americans are examined. Included among these barriers are such factors as the relationship between social class and treatment offered, stereotypes concerning Mexican American folk psychiatry, limitations imposed by language differences, and the effects of stereotypes between Anglo Americans and Mexican Americans. Paradoxical findings in some studies which show a positive perception of mental health services by Mexican Americans are seen to further underscore the need for more research on the Mexican American's position. Stereotypes and generalizations about Spanish-speaking and bilingual Mexican American's approaches to psychotherapy are challenged in the light of recent empirical findings. Recommendations for future research directions and for improving the delivery of mental health services are presented.


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