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Advocates seek to expand mental health services among ID's Spanish speakers

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Monday, October 30, 2023   

Spanish-speaking Idahoans face a lack of mental health resources and advocates in the state want to change it.

Kurtis Pugh, mental health manager for the Community Council of Idaho, which serves migrant agricultural laborers and their families, said there is some stigma surrounding mental health issues in Spanish-speaking communities but often, people lack access to care.

"That's where our biggest obstacles are," Pugh explained. "There are very few Spanish speaking mental health professionals; competent Spanish speaking mental health professionals."

Pugh pointed out access is especially difficult in rural communities, where there might be only one mental health professional, and they are not likely to speak Spanish. The Community Council of Idaho has partnered with the National Alliance of Mental Illness-Idaho to help provide resources and family support groups to migrant families in Spanish.

In November, the group will start a peer support group in Spanish.

Jorge Lopez, licensed professional counselor and board member of the National Alliance of Mental Illness-Idaho, uses a variety of methods for connecting with Spanish-speaking community members, such as talking about the shared experience of COVID.

Lopez also noted many families are immigrants from other countries, which produces its own form of trauma. Because he is from a similar community, he understands what they are going through.

"That feeling of being stuck, being lost, being alone; that is associated with mental health," Lopez emphasized. "I kind of used the lived experiences as the bridge to kind of shed light on the fact that, 'Hey, we all struggle with something maybe related to our mental health, our emotions.'"

Lopez added the most important aspect of expanding services to Spanish speakers is connecting with local groups already working in their communities.

"The whole point is to always learn the needs from the people themselves," Lopez stressed. "And not assume what their needs are or assume what the solutions for what they need is."

Disclosure: NAMI Idaho contributes to our fund for reporting on Mental Health. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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