Latinx Mental Health: Building a Community
"Feeling sustained and supported by our communities helps us gain a sense of belonging and allows us to overcome feelings of alienation." -Chakira
How do you support Latinx mental health?
I am Co-Founder and Lead Organizer for Aliados for Mental Health. My job is to construct spaces online and offline to raise awareness about issues related to the mental health of the Latinx community. I organize community events that give a voice to Latinx community members affected by mental illness and those interested in bilingual socially conscious psychotherapy from a healthcare perspective. We share knowledge and resources about mental illness and mental health care in hopes of raising awareness and decreasing stigma in the Latinx community.
What are some of the biggest myths you’ve heard about Latinx mental health? How do you dispel these myths and fight stigma?
The biggest myth I have heard about Latinx mental health is that we do not have an “unconscious," that we are too poor and too “basic” to be able to think and understand life and our experiences in a deep and abstract way. This myth impacts everything about Latinx mental health particularly the kinds of therapies we are given access to. Most Latinx end up in short-term treatments designed to get their behaviors under control (often psychiatric medications and cognitive-behavioral therapy) rather than longer-term therapies that aim at going beyond behavioral management to truly help people understand themselves and their complex life experiences. I work to dispel this myth by educating mental health professionals about the complexity of the Latinx experience, in particular, the experience of being a multicultural being, a colonized subject, and how to provide more socially conscious and compassionate care to the community.
What are some tips you give to young Latinx with mental health concerns?
If you find yourself struggling emotionally or psychologically and need some guidance and support, please reach out for help before you are in a crisis (become a danger to yourself or others). Talking to a counselor, therapist, teacher, priest, pastor or anyone you trust and respect will help you at least start figuring out what’s wrong and find ways to start addressing the issues. Also, try to find creative ways of channeling and expressing your emotions before you burst- Are you sad? Write poetry. Are you mad? Trying painting. Are you angry? Try a martial arts. Are you worried? Meditate. Feeling powerless? Serve your community.
What are some resources you suggest for the Latinx community?
Our Aliados for Mental Health’s Facebook page is a simple way of “staying woke” to the issues affecting the Latinx mental health community, and our site, El Blog, is due for a revamp soon, so stay tuned for that. Although we will be adding more soon, you can find some important resources for bilingual mental health care on our site.
I think the most important resources for any Latinx is their actual local communities-having a strong social support network is key to preventing and coping with mental health issues. Feeling sustained and supported by our communities helps us gain a sense of belonging and allows us to overcome feelings of alienation. Take some time to walk around your neighborhood and visit local community organizations and even businesses. Visit your local church and meet the pastor or join the choir, check out your local community mental health center and look into their groups or healing circles. Say hello to the bodega cat.