How 'Instagram therapy' helps normalize Latinx mental healthcare

We need a diagnosis, Paging Dr. Internet. Mashable discusses the impact of the internet on our health, and suggests new approaches.
You're likely to have seen Instagram therapy quotes and educational content from therapists in the last couple of years.

The number of Instagram therapy accounts that are specifically tailored for people of color has increased in recent years. Although these accounts don't replace therapy, they help to de-stigmatize mental health, validate the experiences of followers, and foster a sense community. These benefits are particularly important for the Latinx community of the U.S. who faces unique barriers to care due to stigma, language gaps and cultural differences.

While Latinx people are at the same risk of developing mental illness as the rest of society, they also have different treatment options. A 2019 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration report (SAMHSA), shows that the prevalence of mental illness in white adults is around 22 percent and 18% for Latinx adults. When it comes to accessing care, about 50 percent of the white population received treatment, while only 33 percent of Latinx adult were provided with such services.

Caregiver barriers can be overcome

The stigma surrounding mental health is still prevalent in the United States. However, it is less severe in the Latinx community. Although the community is diverse, many of its members share the same values. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, a grassroots advocacy organization. These include strong family connections, extended family and social network connections, as well as a resilient approach to work and life that values adapting to adversity. These factors can be positive but they can also lead to stigmatization or a reluctance to seek out mental healthcare. A strong family bond can lead to a reluctance or preference for private matters and a reluctance for outside help. A feeling of shame about the possibility of being diagnosed may be caused by connections to extended networks. Resilience may also be interpreted as weakness.

Kelly Rodriguez, a Latinx therapist, uses social media accounts to address this. Rodriguez, a licensed marriage and child therapist and certified professional in perinatal mental healthcare, is based in Southern California. She is the founder of @allthefeels.therapy, an Instagram account that specializes in depression, anxiety, and trauma.

Rodriguez stated that stigma is caused by either having incorrect information or not having the right sources of information.

"What we don’t know, we don’t understand and it’s frightening." She added that it is easier to say "I don't believe in therapy" because I don't fully understand it.

Her most popular post is a bilingual list with misconceptions about therapy. It attempts to dispel such views and expose the truths of mental health treatment.

Juriana Hernandez, a licensed marriage- and family therapist, was also responsible for creating the @_amortherapy_ account to normalize therapy within the Latinx community.

Hernandez stated that many people believe therapy is only for the wealthy or white people. Hernandez is using her posts as a way to discredit this notion, and she focuses on relationships and narcissistic abusive in particular.

"Many people believe that therapy is only for the wealthy or white people. It's not for everyone."

A language barrier, in addition to stigma, may make it difficult for Latinx people to get care. Or they might simply prefer someone who is similar to them, understands their culture, and speaks the same language. This can be problematic because a large majority of psychologists (84%) are white and only 6 percent are Latinx. Latinx therapy accounts feature bilingual content, and perhaps even more importantly, providers who are like their followers. These two factors are important in normalizing care. They show that Latinx therapists can relate to clients and provide support and understanding for mental health topics.

NAMI also explains that some Latinx people may not receive treatment because they aren't aware of the symptoms or indicators of mental illness.

Hernandez stated that sometimes people don't realize what's going on with their mental health. They might believe there is something wrong.

Hernandez validates the experiences of followers and shows that they are not alone in their struggles. Her November 2019 post on gaslighting was a great example. She provided examples of abusers' words and explained the psychological and emotional consequences clearly. Nearly two years later, the post still receives engagement. One follower shared how they thought a friend was gaslighting people. While they were confused by the term the friend had "said pretty much all this before". Another commentator said that while it would be difficult for him to react to the gaslighting, it was so rewarding to know what is happening.

Avoid misinformation

Although therapy content on social media is helpful, there are also risks. Posts are not meant to replace personalized therapy. These posts should be considered educational content that can be used as a guide to further care.

Rodriguez is a good example of this. She keeps her content short to avoid raising sensitive topics that need nuance or more in-depth discussion. The posts that garner the most attention are her practical and specific advice. She shared end-of-the year mental health tips and encouraged people to be grateful and kind to themselves and to not compare their lives to others.

A second concern is the possibility that mental health enthusiasts and coaches may be confused with licensed professionals who are posting similar content. Misinformation can occur when unqualified people share information with their followers and they mistake them for credentialed professionals. This content is often vague and uplifting, with no context or recommendations. There is danger in followers not receiving the support they need. This could be because the posts aren't helpful or because they aren't getting enough content to support their mental health.

Instagram is more secure than other platforms such as TikTok. Instagram allows click-throughs and the caption limit for Instagram is longer than that of TikTok's 150 characters. These features allow you to add additional information such as full titles and licensing information. You can easily verify license numbers online by entering the provider's information. You can verify credentials to ensure that you're only viewing content from authorized providers. Even though therapy content on Instagram is beneficial, Instagram's relative culture can lead to mental health problems, particularly for teenage girls.

"I like reminding people to be mindful of the people you follow. Do your research. To make sure that they are who they claim to be, Google the people you follow. Be aware of the terminology, as therapy, counseling and coaching can all refer to psychiatry. Hernandez explained that different terms can mean different things. Forbes reports that mental health counselors help clients navigate relationships and deal with stressors. They can also offer talk therapy to clients. They can also diagnose and prescribe medication when necessary. However, coaches are not trained to treat mental illness and are not accredited in the same manner as psychiatrists or counselors.

Support beyond social media

Insta therapy for Latinx people offers unique benefits in improving mental health access. According to Hernandez, most people find Hernandez on Instagram and then visit her website to learn more. Finally, they call to schedule further treatment. She uses Latinx Therapy on Instagram to connect people to providers if she isn't the right fit or they aren't in California.

Latinx Therapy founder Adriana Alejandre stated that it is more than an Instagram account. It also provides education on therapy and advocacy to end mental health stigmas. It provides support for professionals of color in mental health and a national directory listing of Latinx therapists. It bridges the gap between online engagement and real-life assistance.

Alejandre is both a trauma therapist as well as an activist. She brings both her experiences to Latinx Therapy. She stated that the platforms are meant to help anyone who is interested in healing to realize that they can work with a provider of colour and that, if they choose to pursue a career in psychology, they will be supported. The network empowers Latinx people to be providers. Latinx Therapy provides resources for aspiring and practicing therapists, including a library of recommended books, bilingual reference materials, FAQs, and a list of other resources.

Hernandez has seen the benefits of Latinx therapists in her practice and through @_amortherapy_.

How can we change these patterns and create new generations? It's via social media. Although it has its negative sides, it can also be very useful and helpful if it is used in a way that provides information to many people," Hernandez stated.

Crisis Text Line is available 24/7 for confidential, free support if you need to talk to someone, or if you are having suicidal thoughts. To connect to a crisis counselor, text CRISIS to 74741 Call the NAMI Helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI Monday through Friday, 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET or email [email protected] Alternatively, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Here's a list international resources.

Marissa Cruz Lemar, a writer and a health communications consultant, is Marissa. Her work has been published in The Washington Post, Insider and other publications. Follow her Twitter at @mcruzmissile