Healthcare professionals agree that good mental health is essential to personal well-being. Yet, we continue to see disparities in the accessibility of mental health services for certain groups. At Side by Side, we’re taking a proactive approach, working together to ask the right questions, listening to what our youth need, and meeting them where they are.
One common barrier in the Latinx community is a general distrust of medication, which can prevent youth from receiving medications prescribed for anxiety and depression. One solution? “Bilingual parent workshops,” says You Thrive Program Manager Adrian Maldonado, “that educate parents and also to create a supportive group environment for them, similar to the camaraderie shared by our youth.”
Latinx are the largest growing ethnicity in Sonoma County, yet reports show that they are the community that least seeks out mental health services. Maldonado recently piloted a program around reducing the stigma associated with mental health services for middle school Latinx youth in Healdsburg thanks to a grant from the Sonoma County Vintners Foundation. “The process of sharing experiences, successes, and solutions provides a sense of unity and that there is nothing to be ashamed of,” says Maldonado.
But beyond individual therapy and group support, Maldonado believes that there are many paths to healing. Pre-pandemic, YouThrive sponsored convivencias, gatherings where participants enjoyed traditional recipes, played cultural music, and shared stories from childhood. “In the Latinx community, food is a way of dealing with stress, coping, and expressing love and caring for one another. These cultural gatherings really fostered a sense of community and pride, which offers healing on a different level.”
Our Space program manager Diego Basdeo Fitzgerald uses a similar approach. Instead of immediately referring a troubled LGBTQIA+ youth to therapy, “Sometimes, we just sit with them. We allow space to build rapport and trust, and that often leads to the youth opening up. At that point, they might accept a referral to Community Counseling,” says Basdeo Fitzgerald. “But first it’s essential to build trust.”