Updated 05:03 PM EDT, Wed, Apr 21, 2021

'Dímelo En Español' Addresses Mental Health Needs of Latinos Through 'Cultural Competence'

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Hispanic families seeking for better mental health will benefit from Dímelo en Espanõl, a program from the Ackerman Institute for the Family's Latino Youth and Family Immigration Project.

According to a report from NBC News, the program aims to address the special mental health needs of Latino families, highlighting "cultural competence." Despite being considered as a demographic with high risks of depression, anxiety, and substance abuse, national studies show that Hispanics have lower mental health care access than other cultural groups.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness said that 1 out of 11 Latinos with mental problems consult with a mental health specialist. There are even fewer Hispanic immigrants who look for mental health services. The study also indicated that Latino women have a higher risk of depression (46%) than Latino men (19.6%).

Aside from these, NAMI's research found out that Mexican Americans who were born and have been living long-term in the U.S. have higher suicidal risks than recent Latino immigrants. The study stated that "place of birth has a significant correlation with the subsequent risk for most psychiatric disorders."

Silvia B. Espinal, 32, said that co-creating Dímelo en Espanõl is a personal experience for her.

"I am originally from Peru and I came here when I was 16," she said, as quoted by NBC News. "I learned English quickly, so I would be the helper, the translator, the facilitator for my mother. Although this worked for my family, for many families this kind of role change between parents and child can create an unsettling new dynamic. A parent might feel disempowered, and children can take on adult responsibilities."

Espinal continued, "In our therapy sessions, we want families to see that children can help out during transitional periods, but also that it doesn't take away from respect or from family roles."

The program was commenced in fall 2014 and has catered to families in New York and in other surrounding regions, NBC News wrote. Sessions are carried out in Spanish and payments are processed on a sliding scale based on income. Families without the capacity to offer payment are not turned away from the program.

Clients get word of the project through city agencies, referrals from community organizations, or through the project's official webpage, the news outlet added.

Erika Sosa-Klein, 35, who also co-created the program together with Espinal, said that mental health care is still being regarded by Latinos as shameful. According to Sosa-Klein, communities often resort to praying whenever they encounter problems. The program teaches clients that "you can do all those things and come to therapy" and that "it doesn't have to be one or the other," she explained, as reported by NBC News.

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