By Emalee Gillis, NAMI Spokane Blog Editor.
Providing culturally specific mental health services means different things for different cultures. This article explores what culturally specific mental health services mean for the Hispanic/Latino culture in Spokane. Future posts will look at other cultures.
According to Fernanda Mazcot, Executive Director of the Nuestras Raíces Centro Comunitario (Our Roots Community Center) NRCC of Spokane, providing culturally specific mental health services to the Hispanic/Latino population in Spokane means going beyond thinking about clinical solutions. NRCC provides holistic services that meet the mental health needs of the local Hispanic population in a cultural context.
For example, NRCC’s mental health outreach program includes addressing food security issues through providing a food bank for Hispanic/Latino families. Food insecurity puts a mental toll on families. Addressing food insecurity is part of mental health according to Ms. Mazcot.
Another unique way that NRCC serves the mental health needs of its clientele is to host a Mexican traditional dance group. The group has 17 participants, all women, and they perform locally. The performers mentioned that the group helps their mental health by building up their self-esteem and reconnecting them to their roots while keeping them active. One woman travels an hour to the practices because she believes the group is critical to her mental well-being.
When NRCC decided to launch an effort directed towards the mental health of local Hispanic/Latino youth, they decided to start a youth soccer group. Ms. Mazcot explained that in the Hispanic/Latino culture, soccer is much more than a sport. It is integrated into the culture. The NRCC youth soccer group is free for low-income kids that qualify and is volunteer-led.
According to Ms. Mazcot, one important aspect to providing mental health services to the Hispanic/Latino community is the inclusion of family in the process. She explained that in the Hispanic/Latino culture, the immediate family goes beyond parents and children and includes close cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. She added that in the Hispanic/Latino cultures, individuals often tell their families everything and they meet with them often. Ms. Mazcot says she gets together with her local family weekly and sees other extended family members, who live an hour away, every month.
This inclusion of family runs counter to typical therapy offered in the U.S. Many therapists put boundaries around the individual instead of looking more holistically at the family.
Another unique aspect to providing mental health services to the local Hispanic/Latino population is the inclusion of God. According to Ms. Mazcot, many people don’t understand how much religion is incorporated into her culture. It is incorporated so deeply that individuals can’t really detach from it. Ms Mazcot said that including a person’s culture religion make a big difference in effective care.
Ms. Mascot said that the undocumented Hispanic/Latino clients she serves have particular needs. They face the loss of their home culture. Another challenge is they don’t qualify for Medicaid, so they can’t acquire needed health services.
In addition to nontraditional mental health services like food banks, dance groups and youth clubs, NRCC also offers services that fall more typically under the mental health umbrella. These mental health and health care services are part of a NRCC program called Esperanza (meaning hope). Esperanza is a bilingual social services program through NRCC that works with families, youth, young adults and individuals to achieve wellness and self-sufficiency by providing case management, mental health outreach, advocacy, and care coordination, based on the needs and values of the client.
One service Esperanza offers is peer counseling for people who have depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions. The peer group leaders were trained by NAMI to effectively facilitate mental health peer support groups. Esperanza offers one group for women and another for men.
The Esperanza program includes one master’s level social worker, three bachelor level social workers and five social work interns. As part of their case management services, they might help an individual establish primary care or help them get on disability. The social workers often use NAMI Spokane’s website as a resource.
Esperanza also has a psychologist from Mexico who does telehealth for some Esperanza clients who need more intensive services. Esperanza provides the facility and computer link to the psychologist.
NRCC offers services in Spokane and Adams County. In Adams County, NRCC put on a celebration for kid’s days which is an important holiday in the Hispanic/Latino community. At the kid’s day celebration, NRCC put up a pop up clinic where conversations could be started about mental health needs.
For Ms. Mazcot, the NRCC demonstrates that providing culturally specific services for the mental health of Hispanic/Latino population means so much more than simply providing bilingual services in a clinic.
Frenanda Mazcot is the Executive Director of the NRCC of Spokane. Previously, she initiated and then led the Esperanza program. She also worked with a behavioral health agency at a nonprofit in Arizona. She has fifteen years of experience in mental health.
Emalee Gillis is a writer and blog editor. She is the author of the memoir Adventures on the Path to Living Well with a Mental Illness and has a related TEDx Talk.
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