The New Madison Program wants to de-stigmatize and expand access to mental health services for the Latino community
Nancy Gomez knows the need for mental health services existed before the pandemic and has only increased since. But, especially for the Latino community, she said it all comes down to access.
She wants people to get the help they need, but what if they don’t speak English? What if they are ashamed of their needs? What if they have transport or insurance problems?
Gomez is a psychotherapist for Anesis Therapy in Madison and director of Salud Mental, a program that provides culturally relevant training and bilingual clinicians to break down barriers around mental health in the Latino community.
Compared to the national average of 45%, only about 34% of Hispanic/Latino adults receive treatment for their mental illness each year, according to NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Gomez said her Latino clients didn’t always feel like there was room for them in the mental health field. She joined WPR’s “The Morning Show” on Friday to discuss the barriers in place, how her program can overcome them, and how group-oriented services can, in particular, help members of the Latino community. -American to feel more welcome.
The following interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Kate Archer Kent: What barriers do Latinos face when seeking mental health services?
Nancy Gomez: Right now with the pandemic, and even before the pandemic, people’s needs for mental health services were so great. So when the pandemic hit, it just escalated. However, the big obstacles are the language, the financial aspects, the insurance aspect and also the transport. The last element is that there are not many bilingual clinicians. Overall, it comes down to the accessibility of resources for this population.
KAK: How does your program, Salud Mental, address these barriers?
NG: (We) destigmatize mental health at all levels. Every chance we get, we sit in schools, talking about mental health from elementary school to parents.
In the cultural component, (we provide) this understanding or information from a cultural perspective… The name Salud Mental itself means mental health in Spanish because we wanted to be very transparent. It’s one of the big chunks. And the other simply provides the support for clinicians to feel comfortable practicing in Spanish.
KAK: Your clinic has six bilingual therapists on staff. What can happen when someone who speaks Spanish asks for advice?
NG: When a person seeks mental health services in Spanish, they often encounter a translator, and sometimes these translators are not fully able to provide this cultural component. So they often end up with confusion like, “I don’t know if you can really understand me.” And then they stay away from mental health resources. Knowing how hard it is already to seek out that element of sanity because we’ve been conditioned not to talk about things that might be difficult. Instead, just put up with it. Thus, within our staff, it provides parallel support to the clinicians themselves so that they can provide this care to their clients and the community at large.
READ MORE: Anesis Therapy has partnered with local churches to offer free walk-in clinics in Madison
Caller’s question: How can the county help retain bilingual mental health care providers?
NG: What we see are clinicians coming here (and) practicing, getting certified, and then leaving the Wisconsin area or Dane County for other opportunities. And the big chunk here is just providing the resources and support for bilingual clinicians to stay. So that means restraining them with supports. This means retaining them with incentives, similar to other programs like social work, where they can get support (such as) payment for their tuition or even increase their payment just because clinicians (who) are able to speak two languages are able to work in two different communities.
KAK: What impact is there when someone has a clinician who comes from a similar background to them?
NG: Huge. I talk to some of the clinicians starting out here at Anesis. Just by just existing in this space and you have this shared identity without having to explain anything… it’s huge in the sense that a lot of my clients who are starting mental health work, they didn’t know there was a place for them here. That’s what we often said. Even with adults or parents that I work with, they didn’t even know they were welcome in spaces around mental health.
KAK: What does the success of Salud Mental look like?
NG: We are constantly working to provide more training, not only for clinicians, but in the whole (for) the community. These are trainings that other clinicians from other agencies can take and understand how to provide this culturally appropriate lens when seeing clients from this population and parent or adolescent groups. We have so many visions of what we want to do. It’s just more (about) capacity. This is the big picture to have a cohesive, stable, sustainable and ongoing program for the Dane County region.
KAK: How can support groups eliminate stigma in this area?
NG: Anesis leads different groups throughout the summer. Right now we are organizing a group for African American mothers. We want to do the same but in Spanish. So that means parenting groups in Spanish, addiction treatment groups in Spanish, and now we’re going to start a teen art group in Spanish. So, especially for those (who are) looking for summer activities, to have a space where they know they can have all their identities supported.
KAK: Can groups help people open up?
NG: Within the Latino population, we are truly a community-based population. So we want to provide that group setting to further strengthen the community and make mental health more de-stigmatized and something that’s really celebrated and talked about.
KAK: How do you work beyond the shame around mental illness in your community?
NG: It’s huge, actually. I was just at a community event a few weeks ago and (saw) a lot of resistance. “I should be fine. Everything should be fine. If I really, really want this to work, then it should be fine.” It’s just about meeting customers where they are and validating that they hold those beliefs. It helped them get to a certain point, and it doesn’t serve them anymore. It’s really about reaching them where they are, being there and providing them with the necessary resources when they are ready and not rushing the process too much.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “Hopeline” to 741741.