BELatina News recently had the privilege of sitting down with Jocelyn Garay, a remarkable advocate for mental health in the Latino community. As a Principal at the Dewey Square Group’s Latinovations team and the proud daughter of Salvadoran immigrants, Jocelyn’s journey in championing mental health awareness has been nothing short of inspiring.
In fact, advocating for mental health has become a life mission for her. Recently, for instance, she had the honor of moderating the “Bueno Pues…Hablemos” panel, which focused on mental health initiatives at her alma mater, Marymount University.
“I remember being a student and struggling,” she recalled. “I also remember not wanting to get help and in retrospect, I wish I had led by example and gotten help back then. I am so grateful to be able to give back just a little to an institution that gave me so much!”
The event held personal significance for her, as she shared her own struggles as a student and the importance of seeking help. The experience allowed her to encourage others to prioritize their emotional wellbeing.
When asked about the significance of events such as “Buenos Pues…Hablemos,” Jocelyn highlighted the necessity for everyone to check in on their mental health. Panels and discussions serve as reminders and opportunities to learn. With mental health still a topic unfamiliar to many Latinos, the more information shared, the better.
She also offered a heartfelt message to those who tuned in to watch the event. “I hope people learned that it is okay not to be okay, and to check in on their friends,” she expressed. “We never know who may be struggling. It is important to take a second and think of that friend that maybe seems off and remind them to care for their emotional wellbeing.”
Jocelyn Garay Understands How Mental Health is Perceived in Latino Households – And Why That Needs to Change
Beyond talking about the importance of mental health in an academic setting, she is keenly aware of how much these discussions matter in all settings.
Mental health, for Jocelyn, is not just a topic to be discussed in passing; it’s a fundamental aspect of our lives. “We’ve all had days where we just feel off or down, we all struggle, and it affects everything in our lives,” she shared. “Mental health is just as important as physical health, and we should all treat it as such. It is important to check in on our mental health and focus on our emotional wellbeing every day.”
Growing up in a Latino household, conversations around mental health were scarce. Jocelyn recalled how her parents believed mental health didn’t exist, dismissing her feelings of stress or sadness. However, her father’s journey with mental health brought about a transformative change in the family dynamic. “While that was a very difficult time for our family, we are all grateful we can now talk about and acknowledge our mental health,” Jocelyn revealed.
Breaking the silence within her family allowed for open discussions on mental health. Today, they support one another, offering comfort during anxious or overwhelming times. Jocelyn’s sister emerged as a guiding light, being the first to acknowledge her mental health needs and advocating for herself. Her courage laid the foundation for the rest of the family to follow suit, and they now stand firmly in their truth.
Reflecting on the newer generation of Latinos, Jocelyn emphasized the availability of more resources and growing comfort in discussing mental health. Still, she believes these conversations might still face challenges within families. “I hope [these conversations] are easier to navigate with friends,” she remarked, praising the bravery and honesty of younger Latinos in the quest for a more accepting future.
As the conversation drew to an end, Jocelyn encouraged the audience to engage in self-care, check out the panel, and visit seizetheawkward.org for valuable conversation starters and resources to support each other on the journey to mental wellness.
Her unwavering dedication to mental health advocacy serves as a shining example of the power of compassion, understanding, and mutual support within the Latino community.