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Various studies have been conducted in America to assess the disparities between the health risks posed to the people in the country while relating the problems with the cultural, racial or environmental backgrounds. Mexican Americans form the largest population of the Hispanic Americans in USA. The large population has been fuelled by migration of Mexicans to USA which have got a historical and a cultural background, as they sought to get employment in the growing industries and railway network in the US.. The migration of the Mexicans to the US accelerated in the turn of the 20th century succeeding the years of conflict between the Mexicans and the Americans along the border between the two countries. The culture of the Mexican Americans is born from adoption of two cultures from both countries although the Mexican culture which tends to concentrate more on family welfare is dominant. For many years, the Mexican Americans have experienced psychological effects relating to depression and stress although these disorders vary between the Mexican Americans born within the US and those that emigrated from Mexico. Their quest for better life led to to accepting low paying jobs, and were subjected to hash conditions that affected them psychologically.
This paper has been prepared to examine the result of some studies carried out on the diagnosis of mental disorders among Mexican Americans and the historical and cultural attachments linked to the observed phenomena. Also a hypothesis is set that tries to find a solution to the mental disorders among Mexican Americans that are cultural sensitive.
The history of the Mexican Americans dates many centuries back. Mexican Americans are a product of historical development that began around the 17th century. This period witnessed Spain conquer Mexico which was originally inhabited by Indians. For a long period the interaction between the Spanish and the inhabitants developed the Hispanic Americans who were later colonized by the United States of America.
This involved the Mexican American being subjected to slavery and a great deal of economic exploitation. Problems between Mexico and the United States which borders it to the north became much agitated in the 1840s. This prompted the Mexico war on the regions along the bounder of USA and Mexico. However the war between Mexico and United States of America ended in 1848 with the signing of the Guadalupe Hidalgo Treaty in which Mexico surrendered much of to its territory to the United States of America (Englekirk and Marín, 2009).
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The onset on the 20th century found massive migration from Mexico and other countries in Europe to the United States of America. The migration was boosted by economic factors as well as political factors. Many Mexicans migrated to look for employment in the newly established irrigation schemes as labourers. Also the political instability in Mexico by 1920s prompted many to escape northwards to America. The migration was however distracted due to the great economic depression of 193os. The collapse of the economy prompted many migrants to return to Mexico and many others sent back by the government. In the period between 1900s and 1939, many Mexican Americans remained poor and rural, largely assimilated and Spanish speaking (Guisepi n.d).
In the mid-20th century Mexican Americans have immerged as a distinctive social class in the United States of America together with the black Americans especially due to their struggle for liberation from discrimination by the whites in 1960s. The self awareness of the Mexican Americans to fight for the civil rights was boosted further by the continued migration from México to the United States of America. The population of the Mexican Americans in United States of America increased significantly where they were able to shift from rural to urban lifestyles. However, the city dwelling minority among the Mexican Americans found themselves sharing the same social problems with the rest of the poor people mostly the black Americans like lack of jobs and employment, poor housing facilities and difficult in accessing good educational facilities.
By the decade of 1990s, many Mexican Americans were living near cities and formed the majority of the populations in some states like California. Also there are sizeable population of Mexican Americans in Kansas City, Chicago, Detroit, New York and Denver. The Mexican Americans have risen to seek political and economic positions in the United States of America.
The culture of Mexican Americans is a mixture of the American culture and the culture of people from Mexico. Being neighbors, a lot of the practices of the Mexican Americans are borrowed from Mexico. Also the culture has been relatively adulterated by the American culture although strong family ties are still upheld. The cultural heritage by the Mexican Americans has been exhibited for a long period of time. Of great importance is the fact that Mexican Americans are a matriarchal society. The culture of the Mexican Americans focuses on the family as a primary social unit. They take pride in maintaining the family together and put effort in strengthening this social institution at all times.
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Various studies have shown that the Hispanic families in America demonstrate an aspect of authoritarian and macho-dominant nature. These aspects have been reported as great hindrance to individual achievement, progress and independence (Mano a Mano, 2007). The Mexican Americans respect men as the heads of families and as the main wage earners. Traditionally, men and women in the society have roles they are supposed to play which acts as a stern parental discipline. The society follows a matriarchal setup. In this case, although the male dominate as the overall authority in the family, women and mothers are very powerful to a point where they are viewed as the ones with real powers in the family. The women assume more control in family affairs than the men. It has been reported that women in this society are often active in policymaking in education programs and agencies and also in assorted community activities (Mano a Mano 2007).
The lives of Mexican Americans were not that fulfilling as they were subjected to deplorable working conditions by their American employers. Most of the immigrants were employed as farm workers in the northern part of the US particularly the California region as they fled the civil strife in their country Mexico. The reason for poor treatment may be pegged on the perception of the American farm owners that Mexicans were desperate for work and that they could accept whichever conditions they were subjected to as long as they were to live in America.
The 1930s saw Mexican Americans experience one of the moist depressing tiome of their life especially accelerated by the occurrence of the Great Depression. Having established themselves in the American labor market, Americans realized that their job opportunities were dwindling and had been taken by the Mexicans and therefore discrimination and prejudice against the Mexicans began with some whites calling for repatriation of the Mexican immigrants and Mexican Americans. What followed was mass repatriation with the Mexican American children and women suffering the most According to the Mexican American culture the woman was responsible for bringing up children and ensuring there was happiness in the family while men were charged with the responsibility of working to provide for the family welfare. On the other hand children are the most important part of the family and therefore subjecting them to such deplorable conditions was tantamount to destroying future of the Mexican Americans.
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV)
Psychiatric diagnosis is categorized by the diagnosis and statistical manual of mental health (DSM- IV). The manual covers all the disorders in people across all ages and the causes, statistics, prognosis as well the researches being done concerning the treatment of such disorders. The development of the diagnostic and statistical manual has taken several stages where the most current is the DSM IV (American Psychiatrists Association 2009).
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Studies have been conducted to assess the vulnerability of Mexican Americans born in America and those born outside America to some psychological disorders. In order to access the prevalence of depression and generalized anxiety a study was carried to low income Mexican American patients attending a family health centre. It has been reported that the rates of the current DSM -III diagnosable depression and anxiety were similar to the rates reported for other Americans in the United States of America. However it was observed that among the whites, Anglo-Americans, and the Mexican Americans and sex differences showed variations in the results that were obtained.
The Mexican Americans have been found to experience lower number of depressive symptoms. It has been mentioned that the Mexican Americans and the Latinos in general are likely to seek help for primary health care over mental health care than the other Americans (Lewis-Fernandez, Alfonso and Weissman 2005: p 1)
It is reported that many Hispanic Americans are heterogeneous and the disparities between subgroups in the society is vital in recognizing and assessing the mental health needs. The different surveys conducted to asses the mental depression vulnerability in among Mexican Americans reveals that, the immigrants from Mexico experiences a lower change of being depressed than the Mexican Americans born in USA. This is because the immigrants have a stronger attachment to the family or other cultural values than those born in USA. In addition the difference is as a result of the strong attachment of Mexican Americans to the family that tends to prevent the immigrants from deprivation. Lewis-Fernandez et al (2005: p 2) However this conclusion has been questioned by other studies that indicated that the Mexican immigrants to USA had approximately one half the rate of the US born Mexicans. The rates obtained for the immigrants resembled the rates obtained in Mexico City and also those obtained from the US born Mexicans were similar with those obtained in the survey of the United States in general.
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According to Lewis-Fernandez et al (2005: p 3) a report conducted in USA to assess depression and anxiety in family health centers indicates that the rate of depression of the Mexican Americans was significantly lower than that of the white women in America.
A study conducted to assess the prevalence of data on specific DSM IV/ psychiatric disorders among foreign born and US-born Mexican Americans and non- Hispanic whites reveals that the both the foreign born Mexican Americans are a lower risk (p> .o5) of DSM-IV on mood and anxiety disorders as compared with the US- born Mexican Americans. The reason for the above phenomena is attached to the culture and the deleterious effects of acculturation of psychiatric illnesses in the United States. National Institute of Health (2004: Para 7). The study findings indicate that, acculturation has negative mental health effects to both Mexican Americans and non Hispanic whites. The preservation of strong cultural family networks and traditions among the Mexican Americans has protective effects on mental health of Mexican Americans. The US-born Mexican Americans have a higher potential of adulterating their cultural practices with the culture of the Americans hence the family networks are significantly affected. The study also shows that the US-born Mexican Americans have a clear advantage in the risk of psychiatric disorders over the US-born non Hispanic whites.
Treatment of mental disorders among Mexican Americans
Identifying some specific components of the cultural practices in the United States of America that may reduce negative effects of acculturation on mental health holds a great potential in prevention and treatment of mental disorders among the various racial groups in the United States of America. .
Culture imprints mental health by influencing the experience and the discomfort that accompanies mental disorders on individuals. It is argued that traditions and cultural norms determine how the individual suffering from mental illnesses express their sufferings. The expressions always reflect the values and themes in societies from which the individuals are attached. Anonymous (n.d: Para 15)
In treating the mental health cases in the United States of America, family relations need to be emphasized. The above indicated surveys indicate that family support remains vital in preventing and treatment of the mental disorders not only in Mexican American communities but also in Hon Hispanic Americans.
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Family attachment plays an important role in providing support for individuals with mental and other psychological problems. Mexican Americans exhibit a strong family loyalty which means that despite the stigma associated with mental health cases, families are an important initial source of assistance in efforts to prevent and cope with mental problems. The members of the family needs to be involved in the treatment procedures of mental problem together with the treatment and prevention guidelines in the DSM schedules. Strong family attachments also reduce the chances of relapse of the mental problems in any family member (Anonymous n.d: Para 18).