Researcher discusses mental health in Hispanic and Latino communities amid COVID


Elizabeth M. Martinez. Credit: University of Minnesota

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated mental health challenges and barriers in the United States. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, Hispanic adults, children and adolescents have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. Additionally, people may have nervous feelings as the pandemic restrictions have been lifted.

Elizabeth M. Martinez, Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Minnesota School of Medicine, talks about mental health in the Hispanic and Latino communities.

Q: How can the pandemic affect a person’s health on a daily basis?

Martinez: The COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge effect on our lives. Overnight, our lives have been drastically changed with public health measures to reduce the risk of contracting the virus throughout the past year. In the face of fear of the effects of COVID-19, a new virus that we know little about, it is normal that many of us have felt fear, stress and anxiety. Worry that oneself or that our family and friends will get sick is common, as well as the worry and sadness caused by the restrictions we have had to face. With public health measures and social distancing, many people have felt isolated and stressed.

Mental health can be affected by chronic stress and uncertainty. The Latin American community has been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. Many of our families have contracted COVID-19 and have had more drastic effects from the virus, possibly due to various health inequalities. Likewise, Latin American families have been affected economically with restrictions on various businesses and industries and educationally with the closure of schools and online education. The combination of many of these factors is very stressful and has had effects on the mental and physical health of many people.

Q: How and why do people react differently to pandemic stress?

Martinez: Stress, anxiety and sadness are natural emotions in the face of the pandemic we are going through. We all react to stress differently – our age, our generational status, the situation we find ourselves in, our history, and our past experiences all affect how we respond to and deal with stress. Signs of stress can be physical, emotional and / or changes in our day-to-day behavior. Stress and emotions can manifest physically as an upset stomach, headache, or muscle tension. We may also experience feelings of anxiety, confusion, sadness, or frustration. It can affect our focus and the level of worry we have. It can also be manifested by changes in appetite or trouble sleeping. It is important to know that children, who lack the words or skills to express themselves verbally and tell us what they are feeling, show their stress in another way. Be aware of changes in behavior – for example, that they are calmer, with more temper tantrums, or more isolated – their emotional expressions or complaints and physical pain.

Q: What types of stressful events during the pandemic trigger stress or anxiety?

Martinez: During the pandemic, there are several events that can cause anxiety. At first, the uncertainty about the virus and the fear of being infected caused a lot of anxiety and tension. Restrictions and social distancing have led to bouts of depression and anxiety for people of all ages. We have seen these mental health effects even more in adolescents and young adults. Mental health has also been affected by the absence of our natural measures to deal with stress (e.g., support from family and friends, access to church and community services, going to the gym or school. , etc.). It’s also natural to feel upset, worried and sad when family and friends get sick or for those who have died from COVID-19 infection. Sadly, many families are mourning loss due to COVID-19 or other reasons, and may have complex feelings about the pandemic and the changes in restrictions. Finally, disinformation and alarming news shared through social media and unreliable sites was a common source of anxiety for many people.

Now that vaccines are available for teens over 12, it’s common to feel nervous and want to do more research on vaccine side effects and how well they work. With the lifting of restrictions, many people felt stressed by the change in public health measures. It is advisable to speak to a trusted healthcare professional who knows your medical history if you have any questions about the vaccine. It is also important to talk as a family and together decide what activities everyone feels comfortable doing and what preventative measures family members will take.

Q: What can people do to deal with stress and anxiety during the pandemic or with the restrictions lifted?

Martinez: There are many ways to take care of our well-being and mental health. Our physical health and our mental health are inextricably linked. By taking care of our bodies, whether it is with nutritious food, physical activity, good sleep, or avoiding substances such as alcohol and other drugs, we help our bodies be healthy and in better shape. to manage stress. Learning and practicing deep breathing and meditation can also help us cope with stress and anxiety. It is also important to have activities in our day that we relax and enjoy to reduce our worry. They can read a book or magazine, watch a TV show, draw or write, go for a walk or spend time outdoors. It is important to find a mix of individual, family and group activities to relax and have fun. Finally, it is important to stay in touch with our family, social and community or religious support organizations.

Taking breaks from reading or listening to the news and watching social media can also be very healthy. One can be well informed without being inundated with very distressing information. Think about how to put limits on news and social media for yourself and the young members of your family. Look for information from reliable and reliable sources.

Q: What does your mental health work show?

Martinez: In my work as a psychologist, I have supported several people to deal with the pandemic in a healthier way. It is normal to feel overwhelmed and stressed when various factors and situations are out of our control. It is important to focus on the values ​​and activities that are most important to us and to consider the elements that we have under our control. For example, we can focus on our family, our work or our studies, or on projects that we are passionate about. While there are situations that we cannot control, what we can control is how we react to that situation.

Our social bond is also extremely important. Various psychological studies have taught that loneliness and isolation are harmful to our mental and physical health. As social beings it is very important to stay in touch with friends and family. The good news is that today we have many ways to stay connected through email, phone, and video calls. It is also possible to use these means to speak with spiritual leaders, mentors or professionals with whom we wish to consult or seek advice. If you are having difficulty dealing with stress, you may want to see a health or mental health professional. Professional help is confidential and can help you or your loved ones through difficult times.


One in four adults with depression or anxiety lacked mental health support during the pandemic


Provided by the University of Minnesota


Quote: Researcher Discusses Mental Health in Hispanic and Latino Communities Amid COVID (2021, July 7) Retrieved July 7, 2021 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-07-discussions-mental- health-hispanic-latino.html

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