Latinx Mental Health: Building Bridges Between Latinx and Disability
"For too long, I've had to split my Latinx and disability identities." -Katherine
How do you support Latinx mental health?
I am the co-founder of the National Coalition for Latinxs with Disability (CNLD). My job as a leader in this #DisabledLatinx movement is to network and connect with other Disabled and Latinx leaders in the U.S. and those who want to be leaders in the movement. I'm building bridges between the Latinx and Disability worlds. For too long, I've had to split my Latinx and disability identities, and I know that's true for others out there!
On an administrative level, I organize, mobilize and execute CNLD meetings, social media presence, and events. At the moment, I'm sort of a Juliana-of-all-trades! The greatest part of my job is collaborating with other Disabled and Latinx people to work with them in achieving their social justice goals.
What are some of the biggest myths you’ve heard about Latinx mental health? How do you dispel these myths and fight stigma?
I have been called "dramatic," "sensitive," "emotional," and so many other terms in both English and Spanish throughout my life. This linguistic gymnastics around mental disability simultaneously stigmatizes us as problematic and erases our Disabled experience. It makes us hide and suppress our true selves, which takes a toll on our bodies and minds. This negation also creates barriers for people in our community to access mental health services. The myth that we don't exist thus perpetuates our oppression and is literally killing us.
As a Latina who is open about my mental disabilities, I'm leading by example that having a mental disability is something in which you can find pride, community, and culture in addition to something that you can manage through proper supports.
What are some tips you give to young Latinx with mental health concerns?
I grew up with mental disabilities from a young age. I felt completely alone and terrified to tell anyone about my body and mind experiences until I was practically an adult. As a child, I thought I would always be alone. I have found a strong, supportive, non-judgmental, and welcoming community. I want all the young Latinx people out there having symptoms of mental disability to know: you are not alone!
Find people you can trust, whether it's a parent, friend, or a mental disability advocate. Tell them how you are struggling. You don't have to carry your burdens alone. In time, you'll realize how big our community is. We're the biggest and best kept secret out there! And know this: living (and celebrating) your most authentic self is the best way to live! There is nothing wrong with a body or mind that is "different." Perfection is a myth. Normalcy is a myth. Be you!
What are some resources you suggest for the Latinx community?
Tap into resources that non-Latinx disabled people have been accessing for decades! Let's stop the reality that the disability community is too white--check out #DisabilityTooWhite. Engage with the Disability Rights Movement, learn your disability rights, and join the #DisabledLatinx community (& disability community at large!) Every state has a protection and advocacy agency--for example, in California, where I'm from, it's Disability Rights California. Check out identity-org groups like the National Coalition for Latinxs with Disabilities and self-advocacy groups like ADAPT. There's a big difference between groups (typically not led by Disabled people) who view disability as something that is "bad and sad" and groups that uplift and build community. I hope you learn to navigate and choose wisely between those groups. Remember: Disability Rights are human rights!