It’s frustrating to see how the strides of normalizing mental health in the Latine community could become futile with just one harmful statement. Sebastian Lletget is under fire for allegedly cheating on Becky G. This comes just a mere few months after their engagement. And what does Sebastian use to scapegoat his “bad decisions” instead of taking responsibility? Mental health.
Mental illness is something that many can relate to. More than one in five adults in the U.S. live with mental illness. And as someone who struggles to come to terms with a number of diagnoses myself, I see people like Sebastian as a setback rather than a stride in normalizing mental health, especially amongst Latine people.
The work I, along with so many others, do is to start conversations about mental health in the Latine community. In an episode of La Lucha, we discussed how often this topic is taboo and seen as something you deal with rather than receiving treatment. On the podcast, we shared our stories about how we came to terms with asking for help as Latines from traditional families as well as professional treatment.
This was specifically the sentiment of male guests on the episode as they recounted how Latine men struggle, on top of mental illness, with machismo and the internalized idea that men do not show emotion.
The rationale for this generalization of men is to make the male population the “caretakers” and stronger opposition to the historically harmful image of women who are seen as weak and emotional. In Latine communities, this stereotype becomes heightened as men are assigned to labor and women stay home to cook, clean and watch the kids. And although these black-and-white examples of machismo may not be as relevant today, the sentiment of machismo has been passed down through generations all the way down to Sebastian today.
Because don’t think for a second that Sebastian’s claim to mental health helps destigmatize the issue; more so, it helps maintain the machista stronghold on the relationship he has with Becky G. As someone who struggles with mental illness that inhibits bad decision-making, it’s hard to see a part of my identity being skewed and misconstrued into a tool for men to excuse bad behavior.
Sebastian is creating a blueprint, a blueprint for using mental health as a weapon to excuse bad behavior. It will become as used as “she was asking for it” to turn the blame somewhere other than the person looking back in the mirror.
Caring about mental health is important, but that’s not what Sebastian is doing though he is using it to justify or get out of being reprimanded. Someone who truly struggles with mental illness knows when one of these bad decisions causes a spiral of self-blame in a way where we feel guilty for saying it was your mental illness that triggered the bad decision, but that’s not you. That’s a years-long battle, not a spur-of-the-moment rationalization for bad decisions.
It will become normal if we don’t begin to call out this behavior.
Normal for people in historical positions of power, like Sebastian, to use mental health as a scapegoat not only for bad decisions like cheating but maybe even for worse, like harming women and other marginalized people.
Yes, care about mental health, but be very cognizant of the context being used and listen to fellow Latine people talking about it in a positive, affirming and complex way because it is an important conversation… not a weapon.