Fotonovela: A helpful tool reducing mental health stigma within Spanish-speaking communities

Developed as part of its farm stress management efforts, MSU Extension offers a new mental health resource for people who speak Spanish – the fotonovela titled Sentimientos Secretos, or Secret Feelings.

The cover of the Spanish-language fotonovela. Shows a woman and man underneath the title,
Photo: University of Southern California.

Either directly or indirectly, stigma affects us all. But what exactly is stigma?

Stigma is a negative or discriminatory attitude based on characteristics or perceived characteristics of another individual or group. Examples include age, culture, gender, health, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, or other traits seen as unwanted. Simply put, stigma is the foundation of unjustified distinctions between people (e.g., stereotypes and discrimination).

Stigma can occur in three main ways:

  • Self-stigma: A person holding negative perceptions about one’s own characteristics.
  • Interpersonal stigma: A person in one’s social circle, such as a family member or coworker, holding negative perceptions about a characteristic.
  • Societal or institutional stigma: A whole group of people (such as an organization, community or country) holding negative perceptions about a characteristic.

Stigma can be a major barrier to seeking help and adhering to treatment for people who speak Spanish, have lower incomes, and have immigrated to the U.S. from Latin America. To help address this stigma, MSU Extension can offer a copy of the fotonovela Secret Feelings.

Perhaps you have never heard of fotonovelas. Especially popular in Latin America, fotonovelas are small booklets with photographs of characters and captions with melodramatic dialogue. Secret Feelings is unique because it was developed by the University of Southern California (USC) School of Pharmacy to fight stigma on depression and improve health literacy on the treatment of depression. Secret Feelings differs from other forms of health education material because it emphasizes realistic, culturally relevant role models performing healthy behaviors and overcoming barriers in relatable settings. Not only was it developed to reduce stigma in the Latin American community, but it also works!  

We can all work to improve our perspective on mental health and other stigmatized traits. Take a step toward ending stigma on mental health by contacting Dr. Remington Rice at to receive your own free copy of Secret Feelings while supplies last.

Opportunities to connect 

Michigan State University Extension also offers a variety of programming and resources to support yourself or loved ones undergoing mental health distress. MSU Extension offers programs such as Mental Health First Aid, which can teach you how to support someone who is experiencing a mental health challenge or crisis.

For those in the agriculture and commercial fishing industry and their families, resources and information can be found at the Managing Farm Stress website. This includes access to teletherapy services, the free virtual training Rural Resilience and much more. 

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