Latino ‘One Day At A Time’ Comedy Fights Stigma of Mental Health

Wellness with a Wow

Latino ‘One Day At A Time’ Comedy Fights Stigma of Mental Health

Netflix’s Latino reboot of the popular sitcom ‘One Day at A Time’ from the 1970’s takes on mental health issues facing women and the stigma associated with it.

The new series centers on three generations of a Cuban American family. Justina Machado (“Six Feet Under”) stars as Penelope, a war veteran and recently single mother of two children, 14-year-old Elena (Isabella Gomez) and younger brother Alex (Marcel Ruiz). Rita Moreno  stars as Penelope’s ‘diva-ish’, meddling mother who moves in to help.

After being prescribed medication for mental health, Penelope admits that most Cubans don’t follow their doctor’s orders when it comes to taking medication.

At the end of the episode, Penelope tells her mother that she started taking her medication.

Why is this important?

As a community, Latinos are less likely to seek mental health treatment. A 2001 Surgeon General’s report found that only 20% of Latinos with symptoms of a psychological disorder talk to a doctor about their concerns. Only 10% contact a mental health specialist. Yet, without treatment, certain mental health conditions can worsen and become disabling.

Overall, the Latino community does not talk about mental health issues as reported by the National Alliance of Mental Illness  (NAMI). Subsequently, there is little information about this topic.

Many Latinos do not seek treatment because they don’t recognize the signs and symptoms of mental health conditions or know where to find help. This lack of information also increases the stigma associated with mental health issues. Many Latinos do not seek treatment for fear of being labeled as “locos” (crazy) or as having a mental health condition because this may cause shame.

Common mental health disorders among Latinos are generalized anxiety disorder, major depression, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and alcoholism. Additionally, Latina high school girls have high rates of suicide attempts.

Most people think of diabetes as a physical condition and have never really thought about the mental aspects with living with the condition according to Mark Heyman PhD, CDE.  Even some people with diabetes are surprised that there are organizations like CDMH that focus on diabetes and mental health. They know that living with diabetes is hard for them, but often they are surprised to hear that their concerns are actually (and unfortunately) quite common.

Can a TV comedy help fight the stigma of mental health in the Latino community?

Although the answer remains to be seen, it’s important to note that twenty years ago another TV sitcom had a tremendous impact on different community facing a stigma.

Ellen DeGeneres’s Groundbreaking Coming Out on her sitcom Ellen. “The Puppy Episode” was watched by an estimated 44 million people, nearly three times the show’s usual ratings.

Ellen DeGeneres told the Associated Press during an interview reflecting on the episode’s 20th anniversary. “I suddenly said, ‘Why am I being, you know, ashamed of who I am just to be successful and famous in society’s eyes?’”

Many in the LGBT community have credited Ellen DeGeneres for making them feel comfortable with themselves and their sexuality, including Eric Marcus, creator and host of the podcast “Making Gay History.”

“For everyday people,” Marcus told the AP, “Ellen made gay okay.”

Ellen DeGeneres spoke to Diane Sawyer on 20/20 and said, “I decided this was not going to be something that I was going to live the rest of my life being ashamed of.”

Believe it or not, Gloria Estefan’s take on the original theme song and gives it a flavorful update.

The original ‘One Day At A Time’, developed by Lear and created by Whitney Blake and Allan Manings, ran on CBS for nine seasons. It starred Bonnie Franklin as the divorced mother and co-starring Valerie Bertinelli and Pat Harrington.

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