Help for Depressed Latinos Often Hampered by Stigma

WEDNESDAY, March 31 (HealthDay News) -- Low-income Latinos who have depression but stigmatize mental illness are less likely to take medications, keep scheduled appointments and control their illness, a U.S. study has found.

Researchers interviewed 200 poor, Spanish-speaking Latinos in Los Angeles who all showed signs of depression in an initial screening. Further screening found that 54 of the patients had mild to severe depression.

Based on responses to questions, the researchers determined that 51% of the patients stigmatized mental illness. These patients were 22% less likely to be taking depression medication, 21% less likely to be able to control their depression, and 44% more likely to have missed scheduled mental health appointments compared to other patients.

"Unfortunately, mental health stigma turns out to be one of the most serious barriers for people receiving care or staying in care," lead author William Vega, a professor of medicine and social work at the University of Southern California, said in a news release.

Vega added that the findings may help doctors develop a set of questions to help them identify depressed patients who might be resistant to care and then help them understand how treatment works.

The findings are published in the March/April issue of the journal General Hospital Psychiatry.

-- Robert Preidt

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SOURCE: Center for Advancing Health, news release, March 28, 2010