Advocates Look to Increase Intervention and Access to Mental Health Resources for Hispanic Population

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COVID cases are on the decline in North Texas, but we could feel the impact for some time.

Potential residual consequences include the mental and emotional burden as a result of the pandemic. This is true particularly among the Hispanic population, which is disproportionately impacted by the virus.

Angelica Andrade was just a child when she started having suicidal thoughts.

“It really hurts thinking about it because I truly believed that I didn’t deserve to live,” said Andrade. “I had to be maybe 11 or 12 years old when I wrote a letter that I was going to commit suicide; that I didn’t want to live anymore.”

Her family found the letter she wrote but didn’t know how to offer the right kind of support. She said many of them laughed it off.

“I never spoke about how I felt ever again after that. And I felt ashamed,” she said.

She comes from a family where mental health wasn’t discussed. Now that she’s a community organizer with the North Texas Dream Team, she realizes her family isn’t much different than the families she encounters throughout DFW.

“I have yet to have a family say that they are in therapy or seeking therapy,” said Andrade. “Coming from a Hispanic family, we don’t talk about these things, we don’t talk about depression. We don’t talk about mental health.”

Now, perhaps more than ever, the conversation is needed. In Dallas County, Hispanic people are roughly 41% percent of the population, but make up 60% of reported COVID cases.

Then there’s the economic hardship brought on by the pandemic. Andrade said the most urgent concern right now among families she serves is food insecurity. Faced with that kind of adversity, she said therapy seems like a luxury, not a priority.

“Food. The lack of food. Not being able to provide food for their families because of job loss because someone in the family is sick and had COVID,” she said.  “How am I supposed to think about therapy when I don’t even know if I’m going to be able to continue living in the house I’m in, and continue to provide for my family?”

Fredrick Sandoval of the National Latino Behavioral Health Association said the Hispanic community desperately needs mental health resources, precisely because of the infection rate and the toll it has taken.

“We’re starting to feel the emotional deprivation. It’s already going to attach itself to a compromised human being. They’re compromised physically, emotionally, spiritually,” said Sandoval.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services said nearly 70% of Hispanics over 18 do not receive treatment for diagnosed mental illness. Andrade said access is a major hurdle.

“All of us aspires to have a quality of life that is meaningful,” said Sandoval. “As human beings, we have that in common.”

In a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults in the United States reported “considerably elevated adverse mental health conditions associated with COVID-19.” It said the percentage of those who reported having seriously considered suicide within 30 days of the survey was higher among Hispanic and Black people. They also saw elevated numbers among young adults, essential workers and unpaid caregivers.

“We can get pro bono immigration attorneys all the time to assist our families. I would love to see pro bono therapists, you know,” said Andrade.

In the absence of easy access to counseling, Andrade encourages families to talk and check-in with one another. She said her family recently started having healing conversations about mental health. And she had a message for the little girl she once was.

“If I could go back and hug my 10-year-old self. You’re going to have a wonderful life. You’re going to help people and you’re going to have beautiful children, and you’re going to live this wonderful life and you never imagined you were worth it.”

For more information about the National Latino Behavioral Health Association, click here.

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