Talking about machismo usually stirs up images of men puffing out their chests, getting in fights and acting as the patriarch or head of the household. It rarely conjures up images of men searching for help with nowhere to turn.
The opioid epidemic in the U.S. has hit Latinos particularly hard. While Anglo men have had overdose rates rise 45.8 percent from 2014 to 2016, the overdose rate for Latinos has jumped 52.5 percent over that same period of time.
Several factors are at play here. First, many Mexican Americans and Latinos are unable to get the help they need due to language barriers. They simply don’t know that the help is there in the first place. Another issue unique to this community is the fact that many are afraid to seek help because they are undocumented. The risk of speaking to any government entity, even one designed to save their lives, is too great. They fear being deported or jailed.
Finally, a big reason many Latino males do not seek the help they need is because of a deeply held belief that men are to be strong and virile. A study done on New York immigrants shows that women are 8.5 times more likely to seek medical help than men are. If Latino men are already so unlikely to seek help for common ailments, they are even more unlikely to make themselves vulnerable and seek help for drug issues.
There are solutions on the horizon. Outreach organizations that specifically cater to Latino men are growing and running campaigns. The Prevention and Recovery Center has an Austin Intensive Outpatient program that provides Spanish-speaking translation services. Their toll free number is (877) 464-7272.
Of course, the real hurdle to overcome is the men themselves. If a man does not seek help, it doesn’t matter how many non-profits there are. It is up to us as brothers and sister, mothers and fathers to look past machismo and look after our family and friends. This goes for men especially. We need to look out for our brothers, who are usually too proud, too busy, too afraid to seek the help they need. If you or someone you care about is struggling with addiction, talk to them. Let them know that it’s alright to seek help. It doesn’t make you less of a man. A man should be able to realize his faults, and from there, work to solve them.