Orange Is the New Black‘s Dascha Polanco is speaking up for the Latino community about an issue that hits close to home.
Polanco, who plays Daya on the Netflix original series, is featured on the cover of Latina magazine’s June/July issue. In an interview with the mag, she opened up about the lack of mental health resources for the Latino community and her own struggles with depression after her mother’s death.
“Mental health is a big issue and I think it’s ignored a lot in the Latino community,” Polanco said. “It’s very interesting, the times I’ve felt that I can’t breathe emotionally, and I react to things in a very impulsive manner — where it’s anger or crying. And being able to speak to somebody about that was kind of a revelation that it was okay for me to feel depressed.”
There’s long been a stigma surrounding mental health issues, but for Latinos and other minorities, it may be even harder to find help. According to the American Psychiatric Association’s Office of Minority and National Affairs, less than 10 percent of Latinos with mental disorders seek the help of a mental health specialist. Less than 20 percent see any kind of doctor at all.
In her interview, Polanco spoke fondly of her mother, who struggled to get her education when Polanco was a young girl.
“I remember my mom would take me and my sister and brother with her to Kingsborough Community College,” Polanco said. “She would leave us outside the classroom, and we would wait for her there. Sometimes I would read things for her and help her write [papers]. I was in sixth grade and helping her with homework.”