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Adelante Sounds Alarm on Latino Mental Health

By La Prensa Staff


Adelante, Inc. is pointing to recent mental health data among Latinos living in Lucas County to urge the community to seek mental health help and to encourage others to eliminate the stigma attached to seeking such services.

A Healthy Lucas County survey to be released in December shows some alarming numbers among Latinos locally and their present mental health status:

·         Four percent (4%) of Lucas County Latino adults considered attempting suicide in the past year.

·         During the past year, 29% of Latino adults had a period of two or more weeks when they felt so sad, blue, or depressed.

·         Twenty-seven percent (27%) of Latino adults experienced four or more adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) in their lifetime.

·         Thirty-three percent (33%) of Lucas County Latino adults rated their mental health as not good for four or more days in the previous month.


“The scary thing is that the numbers are out there to show during a time that we’re in a national pandemic, but the reality is, they’re there, they’re always there,” said Sabina Elizondo-Serratos, Adelante executive director. “It shouldn’t have taken a pandemic to open our eyes for more folks to feel like this is an issue.”


Adelante has offered mental health and support services during the pandemic, but plans to step up its efforts to meet what Ms. Elizondo-Serratos calls an underlying demand. Many Latinos continue to resist seeking services because of the ongoing stigma attached to doing so, even though the survey shows high numbers suffering childhood trauma, the isolationism associated with the pandemic and its resulting mental health issues, along with anxiety and uncertainty related to job loss and the pandemic’s after-effects.


“Whenever we have data like this, I like to share it because it’s real, it’s raw, and it helps support what we’ve known in the field all along,” she said, admitting Adelante’s phones “starting to ring off the hook” shortly after the pandemic began.


But many people simply weren’t ready then to be connected to services through the nonprofit agency’s behavioral health navigator program. The stigma of mental health likely prevented others from following through, contends Ms. Elizondo-Serratos. So the social isolationism brought on by COVID-19 by forcing everyone to stay home and numerous canceled events only made matters worse for many Latino individuals and families.


“This data underscores the dire need and the ongoing commitment from Adelante and partners to offer hope, embrace unity and eliminate stigma associated with seeking mental health services. Adelante continues in the goal of providing support and aspires to remain the beacon of light for families who have experienced loss, depression and sadness, addiction and adverse childhood experiences (ACES) in their lifetime,” stated a recent Adelante email promoting  “a walking billboard campaign” that will serve as a fundraiser for the agency.


Those billboards will be T-shirts sold by Adelante with messages of hope and unity that will be worn across the community. The aim is to show Latinos suffering in silence that they are not alone and getting help for mental health issues is normal and more common than they think. The campaign will begin November 1 in honor of El Día de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead). To some degree, the billboard campaign will replace the César Chávez Humanitarian Award fundraiser canceled last month due to the pandemic.


The timing of the campaign may be more crucial than first realized, with a recent resurgence in the numbers of new COVID-19 cases and the possibility of renewed restrictions. Add to that the usual pressure and stress of the upcoming holiday season, which could combine to deeply affect Latinos who already may be experiencing uncertainty and anxiety in their lives.


“The feeling of the unknown, not knowing where that next meal is going to come from, not being eligible for unemployment, and everybody working from home—all of these different variables have come into play,” said Ms. Elizondo-Serratos. “Those folks who are in active recovery still need to be connected to those lifeline support groups. They need to have that reinforcement in their lives. Otherwise, relapse is going to heighten on a much larger scale.”


Adelante has continued support group meetings during the pandemic, often holding them outdoors at parks, where social distancing also could happen. But there’s a long way to go to turn the tide of the stigma attached to mental health within the Latino community.


“I don’t think it’s turning yet. I think we still have a ways to go,” said Ms. Elizondo-Serratos. “What we’re determining in our initial conversations with people we’re calling is ‘What do I do now? What do I do next?’ That anxiety can lead into depression and sadness.”


The resurgence in COVID-19 cases will force many families to ask tough questions about the upcoming holiday season. Is it safe to gather in a large group as a family at Thanksgiving and Christmas, or other Holiday events? How are we going to provide a happy holiday for our kids when I’m not back to work yet? Even Latino nonprofits are struggling with where to turn and how to raise funds to provide the traditional meals for families in need this holiday season, Adelante among them.


“The reality is, we don’t know either,” said Ms. Elizondo-Serratos. “I’m hopeful some things will start coming up to where we can provide some type of peace to the families who are still struggling day to day.”


EDITOR’S NOTE: Support Adelante’s “Calabaza Extravaganza,” scheduled at its parking lot on Thursday, October 29, at 4:00pm to 6:00pm.  Join the fun, carving and painting pumpkins. The Adult with the best costume wins a prize. RSVP by October 23.

ON THE INTERNET:  www.adelantetoledo.org




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Revised: 10/20/20 14:27:23 -0700.




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