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Longevity resources: Reaching the Latino community and vice versa – Aspen Times

Posted: August 29, 2021 at 1:47 am

Estrella Portillo knows seeking immediate mental health assistance in relation to the Latino community is a big challenge.

Portillo, a 28-year-old Latina who moved to the Roaring Fork Valley from Mexico when she was 12, encountered these challenges almost immediately.

I have struggled with depression and anxiety for a long time, she said. Though she realized and understood what these mental symptoms were, there was a seemingly impenetrable stigma attached to them. Because in my family, if you have accepted that you have a mental illness, then youre weak.

The Glenwood Springs High School graduate said from adults to children, Latinos are reluctant to get the proper care and resources they need for any type of mental health issues, including substance abuse and suicide.

Im coming from a family of immigrants, and mental health is just nonexistent, she said. Its something thats not talked about in Latino families. We just brushed it under the rug.

Portillo takes classes through Naropa University in Boulder, and has recently been researching ways to foster more mental health awareness among the Hispanic community of the Roaring Fork Valley. Her research has so far uncovered barriers such as neglect, access to health insurance and language leading to significant mental health challenges.

They come here to work and have a better life for their families or themselves, and theyre running away from something major, whether it was a traumatic experience, violence, poverty, she said. And all they do here is work. They dont know how to give themselves the space and time to work on themselves emotionally.

They dont feel like they have someone that they trust, she added.

For some, theres also a language barrier.

I definitely think theres a need for more bilingual professionals, Portillo said. And everywhere, from cops to nurses to therapists to social workers and just people that are spreading awareness its not enough.

Leslie Venegas is trying to alleviate this dilemma. The bilingual Latina runs the Celebrate Recovery program in New Castle and is a peer specialist at Mind Springs Health in Glenwood Springs.

I see a lot of need from the Hispanic community, so Ive encountered a lot of people that are in need of resources, she said. Either theyre not informed, or there are not many resources available to them.

Venegas said there are simply more resources available to the English-speaking community.

And theres a lot of Hispanics that dont speak English, or they dont feel comfortable coming to somebody that doesnt come from the same background as them, because we are a different culture, she said.

Celebrate Recovery is a Christian-based, 12-step recovery program designed to help anyone struggling with hurt, pain or addiction of any kind, according to its mission stated online. Mind Springs Health, meanwhile, is Western Colorados largest provider of counseling and therapy for mental wellness.

Like Aspen Strong, Celebrate Recovery provides a 24/7 call-in service for people requesting immediate assistance, as well as additional treatment options. And with people like Venegas on the frontlines, it helps better reach the Latino community.

I pretty much meet with people that are struggling with substance use disorder, or mental health, Venegas said. Its kind of a support system to help them connect them to different people or support systems.

Were a really good resource for people, because weve been there, she added.

Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or rerku@postindependent.com.

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Longevity resources: Reaching the Latino community and vice versa - Aspen Times

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