Mental health and illness are expressed in countless languages and
intertwined with tradition, ritual, social mores, and culture.
It is noted in Mental Health: A Guide for Latinos and Their
Families (see New Resource Educates Latinos About MH Issues) that"
some traditional Latino cultures view and describe mental illnesses in
different ways from most doctors in the U.S." As a result, "[m]ore
and more doctors are learning about different cultural views on mental
Here excerpted from the guide are two examples of common words in the
Latino culture used to describe different emotional ills:
Nervios (nerves) refers to a general sense of vulnerability and
stress brought on by difficult events. Symptoms include headaches and"
brain aches, irritability," stomach pains, sleep problems,
nervousness, easy tearfulness, and mareos (dizziness or spells of
lightheadedness). This is a very broad syndrome. It may be mild and temporary
or very serious and long-lasting.
Sulston means "fright" or "soul loss." It
is also known as esparto, Pismo, tripe Ida, perdida del alma, or
chibih. It is an illness due to a frightening event that causes the
soul to leave the body, resulting in unhappiness and sickness. Typical
symptoms include changes in appetite, troubled sleep and dreams, headache and
stomach aches, sadness, and lack of motivation.