The first day of Hispanic Heritage Month is September 15, which is Independence Day for several Central American countries (Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua) and the day before Mexico’s Independence Day – that’s why the celebration month runs September 15 to October 15, rather than the first to the end of a month. As we come together to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, it’s an ideal time to reflect not only on the rich cultural tapestry that shapes the Hispanic/Latinx community but also on an equally important aspect of well-being: mental health. The Hispanic and Latinx communities have made countless contributions to our nation’s culture and history, but it’s also crucial to address the unique mental health challenges faced by individuals within these communities.
Hispanic and Latinx cultures are known for their resilience and strong sense of community. However, this strength can sometimes make it challenging for individuals to seek help when facing mental health issues. Let’s acknowledge that seeking support for mental health is a sign of courage and strength.
Identity plays a significant role in mental health. During Hispanic Heritage Month, it’s essential to recognize the complexities of identity within the Hispanic/Latinx community. Factors like acculturation, language barriers, and immigration experiences can all impact mental well-being. Let’s create an open and inclusive space for discussions about these challenges.
Stigma surrounding mental health remains a barrier to seeking help. During this month of celebration, let’s actively work to break these stigmas. There is a perception in Latinx/Hispanic communities, especially among older people, that discussing problems with mental health can create embarrassment and shame for the family, resulting in fewer people seeking treatment. Individuals experiencing anxiety or depression in the Latinx community might be labeled as “nervios” (“nervousness”), while those with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia are unfairly called “locos” (“crazies”). These words carry a heavy stigma and contribute to the fear of being labeled, making it difficult for people to discuss their mental health openly. By sharing stories, resources, and support, we can create an environment where individuals feel comfortable discussing their mental health concerns.
Access to mental health resources is critical. According to Mental Health of America (MHA) statistics: Latinx/Hispanic people are more likely to seek help for a mental health disorder from a primary care provider (10 percent) than a mental health specialist (5 percent). This Hispanic Heritage Month, we encourage Latinx/Hispanic community members to explore the mental health services available to them. Reach out to local organizations, clinics, or support groups that can provide culturally sensitive and bilingual support. We also encourage our colleagues and mental health partners to reflect on what we can be doing to make our services more culturally relevant and accessible.
•The United for Waukesha Resiliency Center is a federally funded program of NAMI. We are able to provides no-cost programs, mental health resources, community support and service navigation for anyone affected by the Waukesha Parade Tragedy of 2021. We have a service navigator who has conversational Spanish-speaking capabilities and a contract with translation services. https://unitedwaukesha.org/
•Sixteenth Street Clinics have locations in both Milwaukee and Waukesha, in addition to medical care, they have behavioral health professionals that can assist in English and Spanish. https://sschc.org/our-care/behavioral-health/
•Healing Hearts has a support group for Spanish-speaking individuals who have experienced loss on Mondays from 6-7:30 pm at First United Methodist Church, 121 Wisconsin Ave, Waukesha, WI 53186. https://www.healingheartswisconsin.org/informacion-en-espanol/
Mental Health Resources/Recursos:
Another protective factor to mental health challenges is support and being part of a greater community. Community engagement isn’t just about celebration; it’s also about learning and understanding. This month, take the time to learn about the history, customs, and traditions of Hispanic and Latinx communities. Engage in conversations with your neighbors to gain a deeper appreciation of their experiences. These gatherings provide opportunities to learn, engage, and connect with our neighbors! Here are a few:
•Waukesha Public Library will be hosting a special discussion with Licensed Professional Counselor Gabriela Caballero-Moersfelder as they discuss Solito: A Memoir by Javier Zamora Solito is a story of bravery and finding hope and family during Zamora’s migration from El Salvador to the United States on September 20th at 6:30 pm in the Carnegie Room. English and Spanish speakers are welcome!
•La Casa de Esperanza’s Center for Financial Stability located at 134 Wisconsin Avenue, Waukesha, WI will be hosting an event on October 11th from 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. Join them in learning about the importance of corn and enjoy FREE Mexican Corn (elotes)!
Mental health awareness doesn’t always have to be serious. As we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, let’s also celebrate the moments of joy, resilience, and laughter that are integral to Latinx/Hispanic culture. These positive experiences can be valuable for mental well-being.
This Hispanic Heritage Month, let’s remember that the celebration goes beyond cultural pride; it’s also about nurturing the mental well-being of the Latinx/Hispanic community. By breaking stigmas, promoting access to resources, and offering support, we can ensure that every member of the Latinx/Hispanic community has the opportunity to thrive both culturally and mentally. Together, we can create a more compassionate and inclusive future.