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Schizophrenia in Puerto Rico: Sociocultural and Developmental Influences on Delayed Diagnosis

My late grandaunt, Lucy lived in a rural village in Puerto Rico, where socio-cultural biases delayed diagnosis and resulted in ineffective treatment of her schizophrenia. Research shows this is not an uncommon experience for people with serious mental health illnesses in Puerto Rico. This project reviews socio-cultural and developmental factors causing and delaying diagnosis rates of schizophrenia throughout Puerto Rico. Schizophrenia is defined as a serious psychiatric illness characterized by disruptions in thinking processes, perceptions, emotional reactivity, and social interaction. Symptoms include hallucinations, disorganized thinking, paranoia, social isolation, and more. Modern medications for people with the disorder take about 6 weeks of consecutive cooperation to start showcasing its benefits. For Lucy, this would never happen because she had not received preventative care after her first psychotic episode. Genetics, environment, altered brain chemistry, and structure may be contributing factors to schizophrenia, and a stressful or emotional trigger may induce a psychotic episode. Moreover, culture can influence sickness definition, help-seeking behavior, treatment response, and post-treatment adjustment. Puerto Rico is a small, heavily populated Caribbean island that became a US territory in 1898. It is worth highlighting that residents of Puerto Rico face chronic pressures such as poverty, violence, and a lack of prospect for economic growth. People living in rural areas like Lucy’s are more predisposed to environmental triggers for schizophrenia due to a compilation of socio-cultural biases, prejudices, and overall insensitivity towards mental health illnesses which contributes to social isolation.

Joseph Bonilla '25
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