A Conversation With Nancy Paloma Collins on the Pandemic and Mental Health

Nancy Paloma Collins BELatina Latinx
Photo courtesy of Nancy Paloma Collins

The visibility of mental health is probably one of the only good things derived from the pandemic. 

In the pre-pandemic world, awareness of mental health was gaining traction, but since then, it has become a force of its own — and it’s about time. 

As the conversation on the world’s wellbeing surges, mental health experts are joining the global conversation. One of these experts is Nancy Paloma Collins, a licensed marriage and family therapist and Founder and Clinical Director at Paloma Therapy in California.

Paloma Collins identifies herself as a queer, woman-loving Chicana. She grew up in a community where sex, relationships, and other topics were taboo, which led her into the mental health field. 

Now, she focuses on helping people’s relationships with themselves and their families as well. 

The Chicana therapist also places plenty of emphasis on helping the LGBTQIA+ community, specifically the trans community, and helping families understand their children and any family member that identifies as transgender.

BELatina News had the pleasure of interviewing the licensed marriage and family therapist recently. She dived into the effects of the pandemic on mental health and how to navigate certain topics on mental health within the Latinx community. 

Read what she had to say below! 

Tell us a bit about your experience.

I have been in the mental health field now for about ten years.

This is how I started a therapy group and how I did practice. 

I started the therapy group as a sole provider six years ago. I became a group practitioner a year ago during the pandemic, given the need in the mental health field during quarantine time. 

How did Paloma Therapy come into existence?

First of all, Paloma Therapy focuses on providing clients with mental health services using Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR), IMAGO, GOTTMAN, CBT, Seeking Safety, among other modalities for individuals, couples, and families.

I created it once I saw that I was getting an abundance of phone calls. So,  I brought on other therapists with the same moral values, ideas, and mission. That’s how I formed my therapy group.

Do you think things are getting a little better since mental health has become more prominent, or is that now we’re going to start seeing what effect the pandemic had on people, especially the Latin X and the LGBTQ community?

I think that there was a point of not accepting and denying what was happening in the beginning. But as people began to be quarantined forcefully and alone and sit with themselves, so many things came up. And so, yes, now I feel such an enormous influx of people wanting to come into therapy. 

What’s your perception of people right now? 

I think that right now, people are very hopeful. They have hope.

But at the same time, I think that we need to consider that many people feel the trauma or other emotions caused by the pandemic. 

How has this affected the Latinx community in particular? 

The reality is that some of the clients I’m seeing are now feeling the effects. Some are now feeling some form of PTSD, specifically in the Latinx community, a community where, as you know, we’re very attached to our families. That situation where many couldn’t see their families was very difficult. In order to cope, some went into this space of denial. So, now that many spaces are opening, these same people are still trying to process the effects of that trauma. 

Do you think the pandemic has shifted to talk about love and relationships?

This pandemic and just being in quarantine have shifted the Latinx community, specifically when it comes to relationships and how we talk about love. I feel that there’s more conversation about men and their own emotions. I think men finally had the opportunity to sit in silence and in their own emotions and feelings. I think, for example, that men, specifically in our community, are talking about their emotions. And I think that we’re going to see this change continue. I also think that women in the Latinx community found more voice and are speaking more about empowerment. So, I think there will be somewhat of a balance shift and maybe a good balance for men and women in our community. 

Talking about love and relationships, what would you say that needs to be debunked in the Latinx community regarding how they deal with relationships?

I think one of the things that I felt when I am speaking to couples in our community is that many women still have the idea that they must get married. They are led to believe that they must stay with one person, too. They still eat up having to “put up” with their partner no matter what. And that’s a myth. It’s a myth that I think we’ve carried generation after generation, that once we’re married, we need to stay, although it’s unhealthy and not safe, and we’re not getting the love that we want or deserve. That’s something that needs to be addressed and dismantled. 

Do you feel that religion is a factor in these thoughts? 

Definitely, again, in the Latinx community, we grow up with morals that come from our families, but we might not all grow up in a religious home. However, the principles, morals, and ethics are out there, and they influence how we should behave, how we should talk, and the kind of relationships that we need to accept. Women are continuously being pushed to find that man, take care of them, find that partner, and have children. And I think now there’s time for more conversation about women who are independent and who don’t want to have children and want to focus on being with their partner and their careers, which caters to understanding that relationships will look different, despite the teachings of their upbringing.

What tips can you give our culture to sway away from toxic relationships, including domestic violence?

Let’s take domestic violence, for instance. I would tell them to reach out to a person in your community you can trust. Even speaking to someone you feel comfortable with, such as your nail tech or the person that does your hair, find a friend — just someone that you can talk to.

Once you’re talking to someone you trust, I think that’s the first step of that realization. But it is important to know that it’s not likely that a woman who is going through domestic violence will leave that first or second, or even fifth time. It takes many times for them and situations to happen for them to leave.

What’s the key to a relationship?

Understand that when you have fear in a relationship, when you have anxiety in a relationship, you cannot have joy. They cannot coexist together. It’s very important for women and for all people, in general, to understand that in a relationship, in a healthy relationship, it takes two people coming together and saying, “I want to experience joy in this relationship.”

Would you like to share anything else with the BELatina news audience?

Now that we are all getting together and being out in this new world, it’s a perfect time for all of us to create a new person, a new personality. For example, have you ever said to yourself, “I wish I could be more outgoing, or I want to explore dancing,” or whatever it is in your life that thinking before the pandemic? Well, now is the time to do it. Now is the time to have that metamorphosis of your life. Become that new person. That includes getting a new haircut, buying a new wardrobe, updating all of your dating apps, pictures, profiles, and anything else that will get you to your ideal self. 

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Paloma Collins is reminding everyone that there is so much more to life after enduring a chaotic year and a half. But, of course, taking care of your mental health should always be the top priority.