BY CARLOS GARCIA AUSTIN
PUBLISHED 6:34 AM CT OCT. 17, 2019
AUSTIN, Texas -- For many, being Hispanic or Latinx today isn’t easy.
Austin Community College panel addresses mental health in the Hispanic community
Hispanics face obstacles created by negative stereotypes
Representation lacking in mental health counseling
“Sometimes people think, ‘OK, Latins are violent because of the situation in their countries are this or that,’ but people are different. Nobody comes here trying to look for problems. I think most of them try to look for help,” said Austin Community College student Luis Vasquez.
During a panel at the ACC Highland campus on the occasion of both Hispanic Heritage Month and Mental Health Awareness Week, professionals spoke about the negative perceptions of Hispanic men and women which can lead to internalized trauma. However, getting mental health help is a tall order. And it’s partly related to representation in the counseling field.
“I’ve had a lot of clients come to me and tell me, ‘I was seeing this therapist but it just wasn’t working out because I just felt like I was having to explain so much about my culture,’” said therapist Marissa Rivera, one of the panelists at the event.
For some, getting counseling from someone who looks like them instantly removes barriers.
“When you come by something difficult and somebody tells you, 'Oh, I understand you,' and they haven’t had the same experience as you, it’s going to be difficult for them to really understand,” said Vasquez.
For mental health professionals, once those barriers are down, it opens the door for major breakthroughs including self-love.
“You know I think for me, part of expressing my brownness [includes] wearing my hoops, having my big curly hair, speaking Spanglish,” said Rivera.
For many, it’s about feeling seen and heard for the first time.
“First of all you feel identified. Especially for me, I’m a Latino, and I feel very identified because they know you. They, in a certain way, understand. You probably will say 'OK, they know how I feel because they are from the same heritage and because they’re Latinos too—they know how we’re feeling,'” said Vasquez.
It may not happen tomorrow, or the next day, but those in the field say, things are changing.
“I’m really excited about our Millennial generation and our Gen Z generation because I really see them changing that. I think we all have the capacity to change that,” said Rivera.