Mental Health

about the program

Our long-term goal is to build an equitable infrastructure to address the many challenges faced by Latino and immigrant children who are often dealing with intergenerational traumas related to wars, conflict, violence outside and inside the home. Because Black and Hispanic children were about 14% less likely than White youth to receive treatment for their depression, we want to ensure that their needs are understood and met.


What are the main challenges for mental health in the Latino community in Maryland?

Youth and young adults under age 25 now face higher death rates and lower life expectancies than their peers in other affluent nations. Mental health and substance use problems have increasingly surfaced during the COVID-19 pandemic and have the potential for both immediate and long-term harm for American children and young adults. Children who live in poverty or in households near the poverty threshold may lack high-quality physical and mental health care and so may be at greater risk of death, particularly from injuries. Adolescents of color who identify as LGBTQ may be especially at risk of a suicide attempt.

A January 2022 MLU survey of its Mid-Atlantic Latinx Vaccine Equity Coalition partners, revealed the following growing trends in Latino communities located in the Big-5 Counties (Anne Arundel, Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties) where MALVEC’s work is focused:


  • A growing number of Latino youth are asking for mental health services/therapy and then facing long wait lists.
  • Youth in our MALVEC youth outreach programs expressed that their level of fear at school has increased, both due to COVID-19 and increased violent incidents.
  • Physical health is becoming more of a concern as youth have not been able to exercise as often as recommended during the pandemic. This has the concomitant effect of increased obesity and the likelihood of developing Type II diabetes and other health problems.
  • Children of immigrant parents have additional responsibilities and concerns as they are often a resource for language and cultural information.
  • Two of our partners have been working to identify gaps in services for unaccompanied minors released by Office of Refugee resettlement with other County leaders, and there is not a clear access point for all of them to integrate into community services (Anne Arundel and Montgomery County)
  • Youth released into their sponsor’s care often don’t get enrolled in school, have not had their basic medical evaluations or vaccinations, rates of trafficking are high, and without the ability to access mental-health services, they are susceptible to gang involvement.

A December 2021 Surgeon General report confirmed MLU’s survey findings.[i] “Persistent Systemic Social Inequities and Discrimination” worsened stress and associated mental health concerns for POC during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Approximately 50% to 75% of youth in the juvenile justice system meet the criteria for a mental health disorder, but instead of intervention, they have been housed in correctional facilities.

In Maryland, we have learned that in every county, despite the wide prevalence of mental health disorders, Latinos are undertreated for mental health conditions, including major depression, compared with non-Hispanic Whites. Foreign-born Latinos do not seek mental health services because of isolation, lack of knowledge about mental health disorders and treatment, and reliance on homemade remedies and religion or spirituality. Cultural differences in the perception of mental health can lead to doctor- patient miscommunication and reinforce mistrust in the medical establishment.

Three Counties, Similar Experiences: A comparative examination of Baltimore, Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties

Compared with the general U.S. Latino population, Baltimore Latinos, for example, are more likely to be foreign- born, undocumented, have low incomes, low educational attainment, and limited English proficiency. Smaller social networks and isolation in a new environment can contribute to the stress of migration and exacerbate health disparities.[ii]

In Montgomery County, a 2018 survey by local nonprofit – Identity – demonstrated that the vast majority of Latino youth in their programs experienced at least one Adverse Childhood Event (ACE) and as many as three or more.

Experienced one Adverse Childhood Event – 84% .
Experienced two ACEs – 38%
Experienced three or more ACEs -12%

How ACEs Differ for Latinx Immigrant Youth
Separation from Parents

After being separated, children are at greater risk for a range of social-emotional difficulties including impairments in emotional attachment, self-esteem, and mental health.

Intergenerational Trauma

Which led to many migrants escaping from their home countries. Many confirmed that they felt isolated in their new home due to the loss of a social network and support systems. In order to promote child mental health, we must also address the effects of adversities experienced by their parents.

Delayed Trauma

Research in Prince George’s County indicated a need for better screening for delayed trauma in migrant youths because the current screenings do not pick up the full effects of the trauma they experience during migration.

Violence & Mental Health

Latinos believe that guns are too easily obtained and that government has to do something about gun violence in schools. Domestic violence escalated considerably during the Covid19 pandemic. The emphasis should be on community safety, access to quality mental health especially for vulnerable youth.


Discover our informative and interactive material about Mental Health

Enter our blog and learn about stories, articles, infographics and videos about Mental Health in the Latino community in Maryland. You will also find a directory of institutions that can provide you with the support you need depending on the area in which you are.

Go to Directory


Meet our Mental Health allies

These are the institutions that help us coordinate aid to communities at risk. Click on each logo to be redirected to their own websites.