NEWS Mental Health News The Intersection of Religion and Latinx Mental Health By Krystal Jagoo Krystal Jagoo Krystal Kavita Jagoo is a social worker, committed to anti-oppressive practice, who has worked for three academic institutions across Canada. Her essay, “Inclusive Reproductive Justice,” was in the Reproductive Justice Briefing Book. Learn about our editorial process Updated on October 14, 2022 Fact checked Verywell Mind content is rigorously reviewed by a team of qualified and experienced fact checkers. Fact checkers review articles for factual accuracy, relevance, and timeliness. We rely on the most current and reputable sources, which are cited in the text and listed at the bottom of each article. Content is fact checked after it has been edited and before publication. Learn more. by Karen Cilli Fact checked by Karen Cilli Karen Cilli is a fact-checker for Verywell Mind. She has an extensive background in research, with 33 years of experience as a reference librarian and educator. Learn about our editorial process Share Tweet Email Print Granger Wootz / Getty Images Key Takeaways While religion may be of particular significance to Hispanic and/or Latinx communities, the effects of it are varied and multi-faceted, much like the people themselves. The potential positive and negative impacts of religion on one's mental health should always be considered when working towards equitable outcomes for all groups. You can't close out Latinx Heritage Month without acknowledging the significance of religion (usually Christianity) in Hispanic culture and community, but a Latinx individual's personal relationship with religion can be complicated. This is especially true when it comes to conversations around mental health. Spirituality can offer peace and emotional respite in many instances, but can also serve as a darker reminder of oppression and the remnants of settler colonialism. It's important to consider both the positive and negative influences of religion when it comes to mental health because, in many cases, it's tough to separate religion from culture. Still, it's possible to cultivate mindfulness around religion especially when it comes to treatment plans and equitable care that doesn't involve shame or suppressing one's feelings due to religious doctrine. What Is Religious Abuse? Religion Can Benefit Latinx Individuals A clinical psychologist of a Latinx cultural background with Mindpath Health, Ana Ortiz-Lugo, PsyD, HSP, says, "When it comes to work with patients that are Latinx, religion can be a topic that promotes hope, and it speaks about working for the wellbeing of themselves and others." Some faith-based psychotherapists include the topic of religion and faith as part of their treatment plans, according to Ortiz-Lugo. "That said, there has been a great deal of debate regarding a faith-based treatment called conversion therapy, which is more about promoting the religious doctrine than working on a recovery process," she says. Ana Ortiz-Lugo, PsyD Going to mass on Sundays was a family tradition for me, but when it comes to the treatment that I offer, I feel more comfortable leaving the topic of religion outside the therapy room. — Ana Ortiz-Lugo, PsyD Ortiz-Lugo explains, "Loved ones can support folks that do not practice their beliefs by motivating them to seek out mental health services, being patient, and educating themselves about the psychotherapy process. It is about evidence-based research and the wellbeing of every unique individual looking for help to better their mental health." Personally, in her family, Ortiz-Lugo notes that faith is a very important topic. "Going to mass on Sundays was a family tradition for me, but when it comes to the treatment that I offer, I feel more comfortable leaving the topic of religion outside the therapy room," she says. Ortiz-Lugo prefers to focus on having a good, comprehensive, and evidence-based treatment plan that is targeted to the patient's needs, rather than concentrating on religion as a therapist. "The psychotherapy process is about working the inner self, and religion can be a complement to that if the patient wants to talk about it, but shouldn’t be something that is enforced," she says. How Native Americans Are Healing Despite Ongoing Settler Colonialist Trauma Pros and Cons Always Abound with Religion Founder of Estoy Aqui and public health expert, Ysabel Garcia, MPH, says, "Religion can be a sensitive topic for many members of Latine communities.” Garcia explains, “When it comes to the use of religion for mental health support, I hold multiple truths, rather than rely on binary concepts of good or bad. For example, religion can be a source of community care for many Latinx individuals, as the congregation may be emotionally supportive and scriptures may ground them.” Yet, in terms of its risks, Garcia notes that suicide is often considered a sin. “When I shared with my family that I had thoughts of suicide, one of their responses was that my thoughts came from the devil or a bad spirit. Even though I respected their perspective, it was their roughness when telling me about prayer and church being the solution that pushed me away. The issue itself is not the religious belief but how the solutions influenced by the religious belief are enforced without consent or boundaries. There is a lack of compassion towards loved ones that can result from it,” she says. By this, Garcia explains that religion may offer protection to some, but highlights that the impact of religion on mental health may depend on the person’s values and understanding of oppression. “For instance, while I believe that abortion is healthcare and that LGBTQIA+ identities are valid, others who practice certain religions may consider those beliefs to be sinful,” she says. As Garcia thinks back to a conversation with her aunt in the past, she notes being told that the woman should always follow the man, and be submissive, based on the Christian scriptures. “Based on what I have been offered by Christianity and Catholicism, the practice of a religion does not feel like a good fit for me,” she says. Ysabel Garcia, MPH ...Religion can be a source of community care for many Latine individuals, as the congregation may be emotionally supportive and scriptures may ground them. — Ysabel Garcia, MPH Garcia highlights, “Despite my personal conflict of values with religion, I understand how it can be a source of mental health support for some members of the Latine community. My Dominican mother looks forward to her bible study group because she gains a sense of hope when reading the scriptures and likes to connect with her church members or ‘siblings’ as she calls them. Looking forward to something, believing that there is a bigger purpose on this earth, and being with people who believe what you believe in and share your reality is all suicide prevention. For those reasons, I don’t want to stigmatize the practice of religion as a form of support.” Despite her complicated views on religion, Garcia notes she created a responder training and outreach program called La Cultura Sana, which means, “The Culture Cures,” and calls specific community members, “cultural responders” due to their central role in mental health support, which includes hairstylists, herbalists, and even pastors. What This Means For You If you or someone you love is navigating mental health challenges that may be due in part to the impact of religion on their Hispanic and/or Latine/Latinx communities, be patient in your expectations of changed behavior from these individuals as they work through generational trauma. Hispanic Heritage Month: Shedding Light on Mental Health in the Latinx Community By Krystal Jagoo Krystal Kavita Jagoo is a social worker, committed to anti-oppressive practice. 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