Many people in the Latinx community suffer from mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. Even more concerning, many of them will not seek help or treatment because of the stigma surrounding mental health.
“Mental health issues have a stigma in the Latino community,” explains psychiatrist Diana Lorenzo, MD, of Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Behavioral Health. “Many Latinos would prefer to ignore these conditions over talking about them openly.”
Besides the fact that many Latinas are hesitant to admit to mental health struggles for fear of being seen as weak, many people are also not adequately educated on mental health and what it even means to struggle with depression, anxiety, stress, PTSD, and other conditions.
“For many members of the Latinx community, having words to describe your feelings was never taught in childhood, and therefore responses are taught to come out of avoidance of the issue or through the lens of anger,” explains Amanda Serrano, MSW LCSW, a Bilingual and Bicultural psychotherapist and the founder of Sunrise-Amanecer Inc.
People in the Latinx community are also often unaware of the treatment options available to them, which is why the work and outreach of practices like Sunrise-Amanecer are so crucial and needed more than ever.
Opening up the conversation about mental health in the Latinx community
Sunrise-Amanecer is a mental health facility, located in Greensboro, NC, and was founded in 2019. It strives to be culturally humble and competent, focused primarily on working with the Latinx community and other vulnerable communities. The mission of this practice is simple: make their patients feel heard, appreciated, and valued.
They are community-based, offering therapy to the Latinx community, including some free specialized programs. This includes their Survivors Fund, which provides up to 10 free bilingual therapy sessions for victims of violence, prioritizing victims of sexual violence and domestic violence. “We are a small but mighty team working to change the face of mental health services for the Latinx community as well as other marginalized groups,” Serrano told BeLatina.
Sunrise-Amanecer is on a mission to help black and brown communities overcome the obstacles preventing them from achieving mental wellness and addressing the stigmas around mental health, many of which are cultural.
“Many Latinx people are taught that they must be strong and self-sufficient. They may have never seen their mother or father cry or break down; because of that, many people see themselves as weak when they admit that they cannot manage everything alone and need support,” Serrano told BeLatina via email. “Another reason is that members of black and brown communities rarely see themselves represented by the therapists trying to serve them, there are not enough black and brown therapists that can hold the mirror up, and that understand their experience because there are cultural differences that are hard to bridge and perspectives other therapists are blind to due to the way they experience life,” she said.
An innovative approach
It’s not just about treating illness or helping patients work past a temporary obstacle or a single condition; the tagline at Sunrise-Amanecer is “helping people live full and prosperous lives.” The goal is that “each client who walks through the doors of Sunrise-Amanecer leaves with skills, tools, and understanding of themselves to improve their lives and thrive.,” says Amanda. They also try to create a community space within their treatment facility because “Latinx communities are about community care,” she explains. Community coupled with individual, family, and couple counseling are all a part of the big picture at Sunrise-Amanecer.
A big part of Amanda and her team’s work is dispelling misconceptions about mental health in the Latinx community. After all, knowledge is power, and many people have completely false or misinformed ideas about what it means to struggle with mental health. The biggest misconception she hears is that by admitting you need help, you are weak. “I always address this misconception in the first session with my clients,” Amanda said. It’s a challenging misconception to break open. How do you change people’s perspectives on such a fundamental idea? “I hand them a rock, and I tell them that the rock represents a problem you have not resolved in your life and that it lives on your back… How many other rocks are on your back right now? How heavy are those problems?” Then she explains that “therapy is about resolving some of those problems on your back because, even if you can handle it, suffering is not necessary.”
Ending the mental health stigma in the Latinx community, supporting marginalized populations and vulnerable individuals in need of help and treatment, and helping people live full, prosperous lives — this is what Sunrise-Amanecer is all about. Their work has never been more important and more needed in the Latinx community, and their dedicated efforts are helping to shift the mental health mindset from one of shame to one of healing.