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Everyone Doesn't Call it the Blues


In a recent HBNS research news story, from a study in the journal, General Hospital Psychiatry, we reported that stigma prevents many Latinos from receiving treatment from depression. The study points out that many Latinos prefer to handle personal problems or concerns privately and may resist seeking treatment.

I asked my daughter, who lives in Mexico, to help me with the Latino version of the slang word blues. She said Well, there isn't one. Maybe they would say they feel bad. But there is nothing like an everyday common word that describes feeling down.

What a simple and powerful example of just how easy it is to miss the subtle nuances that exist in different cultures. Many of us Anglos have become so familiar with our blues and moods that we forget the years of changes in social norms that have brought us to using emoticons like a smiley or a frown as routine punctuation marks and making anti-depressants the most commonly prescribed drug in the US.

The findings in this article also raise interesting questions about health care in a country in which Spanish is the primary language spoken at home by over 34 million people aged 5 or older. How much of a difference do cultural definitions of mental states, particularly, influence how and when we seek care? Ethan Watters explores this question in the book: Crazy Like Us: The Globalization of the American Psyche about exporting our models for mental illness.

And a recent piece on WNYC, the New York NPR affiliate, played a fascinating segment on how some hospitals are responding to the different languages and cultural assumptions of those they treat. A tape and summary of the segment can be found here:

Please join the discussion below to explore these findings and share your experiences.

More Blog Posts by Dorothy Jeffress

author bio

Dorothy Jeffress, MBA, MSW, MA, ( executive director, joined CFAH in March 2008. Prior positions include vice president, Center for Information Therapy, 2005-2008, where she assisted with the IxAction Alliance membership program, the annual Ix Conference and finance/administration for the IxCenter; and as the assistant vice president of Value Based Purchasing for the National Business Coalition on Health (NBCH) from 2003 to 2005, where she directed the eValue8 Request for Information (RFI) program. She also worked with NCQA from 1999 to 2002 where she was the director of constituent relations and a senior health care analyst in HEDIS performance measure development. She has also worked for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health as the director of a CDC/state-funded women's health promotion and chronic disease prevention program. She has managed a TPA for self-funded employee benefit programs and also been a benefit manager for a mid-sized employer. Dorothy has an MBA from Clemson University and an MSW in clinical social work and an MA in theology from Boston College.

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Depression/Anxiety   Dorothy Jeffress   Communicate with your Doctors   Mental Health  

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