NIMH expands public health education effort


Research shows the majority of Latinos fail to recognize the symptoms of depression

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), part of the National Institutes of Health, today is launching a new effort in the Real Men Real Depression campaign -- Spanish-language materials to inform the Latino community about depression and to encourage men who are depressed to seek help.

In the U.S., Latinos are the largest ethnic minority -- a population of over 40 million. Of this group, 40 percent reported that Spanish is their preferred language, according to a report by the Surgeon General. The new Real Men Real Depression materials were created to help Spanish-speaking people across the country and from all over the world to understand more about depression, a serious illness. As the nation's primary mental health research agency, NIMH is dedicated to reducing the burden of mental and behavioral disorders through research on mind, brain, and behavior. As part of that mission, NIMH provides mental health information to the public and, in particular, focuses on reducing disparities in health care.

"Depression and other mood disorders cross all national, cultural, ethnic, and gender boundaries. NIMH developed Real Men Real Depression to inform the nation that depression can strike men just as it can strike women. Lack of awareness about depression is a serious concern in the Latino community. Through these new materials we hope to teach Latino men that depression is a medical condition that affects both the mind and the body, but there is hope," said Thomas R. Insel, M.D., director, NIMH. "Effective treatments are available and the success rate is very high for people who seek help and remain in treatment."

According to the National Latino and Asian American study, 54 percent of Latino men with at least one episode of major depression in their lifetime do not recognize having a mental health problem. Latinos also report reluctance to getting treatment for depression. And, like U.S.-born white males, Latino men are afraid that seeking treatment will endanger their jobs. However, there is no evidence to show that people do lose their jobs once they go into treatment. In fact, treatment may be essential to improve work performance.

"Research and clinical findings reveal that women and men may talk differently -- or in the case of men, not talk -- about the symptoms of depression," said Sergio Aguilar-Gaxiola M.D., Ph.D., Visiting Professor of Clinical Internal Medicine and Director of the Center for Reducing Health Disparities, University of California, Davis, and member of the National Advisory Mental Health Council. "Traditional gender roles in the Latino community may further contribute to an unwillingness to talk about feelings of depression."

The new materials include publications and broadcast and print public service announcements (PSAs) in English and Spanish. The PSAs feature Rodolfo Palma-Lulión, a recent college graduate who shared his experience with depression in the hopes of encouraging other Latino men to talk about their depression and seek treatment.

"It took me years to understand that what I was experiencing was depression. Getting help made such an improvement in my life," said Pablo-Lulión. "I hope the Real Men Real Depression campaign will help other Latino men recognize depression in themselves and have the courage to ask for help."

Men with depression, regardless of ethnic background, may be more likely to turn to alcohol or drugs, or to become frustrated, angry or irritable instead of acknowledging their feelings and asking for help. Some men may throw themselves compulsively into their work or hobbies, attempting to hide their depression from themselves, family, and friends; other men may respond to depression by engaging in reckless behavior.

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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