One of Utah’s most vulnerable and underserved populations in Utah is the Latino population. This represents more than 400,000 people, or more than 14%1 of our community in Utah. The Latino population in some neighborhoods in Salt Lake, Utah, Summit and Weber Counties are estimated between 16% and 50%.2 Not only is the Latino population in Utah large, as a historically and currently marginalized population, it bares more risk factors for mental and physical health than the general population. According to the Census in 2007-2011, 22.5% of the Hispanics living in Utah were below the poverty line compared to the overall population of Utah at 11.7%.3 The share of uninsured among undocumented Hispanics (60%) is much higher than the share of uninsured among Latino adults who are legal permanent residents or citizens (28%), or among the adult population of the United States (17%).4

In addition to other environmental challenges, poverty and lack of access to health care are two risk factors that contribute to higher rates of mental and emotional conditions and substance use disorders. Aggravating risk factors include elevated levels of stigma that prevent help-seeking; elevated alcohol and substance use; a sense of isolation or alienation from the dominant culture; and history of trauma (as related to refugee status or other difficult circumstances of immigration). Barriers to prevention in this population are related to the common difficulties of immigrant status; difficulties related to English as a second language; difficulties with child care; difficulties obtaining work, driver’s license and related transportation, and housing.5

Latino culture also has protective factors against suicide and mental illness as well as resources related to prevention. Protective factors and resources in this population include the strength of family ties and community support, religious beliefs that support self-preservation, and strong cultural values of pride that lead to resiliency.6

Still, the Office of Minority Mental Health reports the Hispanics report psychological distress at rates higher than their Non-Hispanic/White counterparts, 4.5% compared to 3.2%.7 The Utah Department of Health and Center for Multicultural Health report found that major depression in Hispanics is almost twice that of all Utahns (8.2% versus 4.2%).8 According to the Center for Disease Control, Latino youths attempt suicide at rates higher (8.2%) than their white non Hispanic peers (6.1%) and suicide attempts for Hispanic girls were 50% higher than for White girls in the same age group, in 2015.9

With competent responsiveness to cultural, socio-economic, and linguistics characteristics, LBHS exists to change these statistics, and the lives of the people they represent. The work of LBHS embodies a theory of change rooted in capacity building: teach a man to fish. LBHS is building the capacity of each individual that chooses to get more involved; providing them with training, new skills, opportunities to teach, or to engage in advocacy or fundraising activities. In this way, our Resident Partner-run programs are sustainable and build capacity into families and communities. By using the strengths inherent within it, together we lift the Latino community up, reduce the risk factors of mental illness and substance use disorders, and directly address the needs of those who need help the most.

  1. US Census Bureau https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/ut
  2. Minority Density of Utah Small Areas, 2013 http://health.utah.gov/disparities/data.html#demoreports
  3. Poverty Rates for Selected Detailed Race and Hispanic Groups by State and Place 2007-2011 http://www.census.gov/prod/2013pubs/acsbr11-17.pdf
  4. Pew Research Center, Hispanic Trends http://www.pewhispanic.org/2009/09/25/hispanics-health-insurance-and-health-care-access/
  5. Suicide Prevention Resource Center https://www.sprc.org/about-suicide/risk-protective-factors
  6. Suicide Prevention Resource Center https://www.sprc.org/about-suicide/risk-protective-factors
  7. Office of Minority Mental Health https://minorityhealth.hhs.gov/omh/browse.aspx?lvl=4&lvlid=69
  8. Utah Health Disparities Summary https://www.health.utah.gov/disparities/data/ohd/archives/HispanicFactSheet2.pdf
  9. Office of Minority Mental Health https://minorityhealth.hhs.gov/omh/browse.aspx?lvl=4&lvlid=69