Luis Alanis, Director of Youth Programs at Guadalupe Centers knows first hand the struggles mental health challenges can cause for teens and young adults in the Latino community. He experienced it himself. And that experience — learning to let go of trauma through the help of others — has fueled his vision to help Latino teens and families recover and move forward.
Today, Luis, along with the Guadalupe Centers executive team and staff, continues to carry on their over 100-year legacy of helping kids in the Jackson County Latino community. They want kids to feel more hopeful about life today and its possibilities for tomorrow. CEO Beto Lopez says it’s partnerships with organizations like the Children’s Services Fund that enable Guadalupe Centers to help kids and families everyday. To do so, they must overcome the barriers associated with mental health in the Latino community.
Mental Health Barriers for the Latino Community
Within the Latino community, the need for mental health awareness is especially great. Anxiety and depression, childhood trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), excessive substance use of illicit drugs or alcohol, and suicide are all concerns for families and kids. In addition, the Latino culture has unique challenges that hinder support:
- There’s a stigma around mental health in the Latino culture. It’s just something not talked about. Few seek treatment for fear of being labeled or shamed.
- Latino families value privacy. They have an understanding that challenges stay at home. Discussing concerns outside of the family or in public causes anxiety for fear of judgment.
- Faith and spirituality are also very important. Latinos are taught to be strong and depend on God, which is good, but can also hinder them from getting the practical help they really need.
- Latinos often experience inequity in mental health and social services — from getting access to finding quality support.
There are other concerns:
- As Covid continues, kids wonder what will happen to them if they or their single mom/dad get sick.
- Kids fear seeing their parents arrested or deported, and wonder what will happen to them.
- Violence in their neighborhoods, food insecurities for low income families, and discrimmination are also realities.
Guadalupe Centers wants to level the field when it comes to quality mental health and social-emotional support for Latino kids and their families. The CSF is helping them do that by offering critical funding for two of Guadalupe Centers’ programs. The Enhanced Bilingual Child & Youth Counseling & Therapy program will support 80 kids in 2022, and an additional 237 teens will receive support and education through the Bilingual Substance Use Prevention for Adolescents & Youth.
Expanding Bilingual Mental Health Programs
Guadalupe Centers utilizes CSF funding to overcome several barriers. They know families need bilingual counseling. Many don’t have paid time off and are dealing with rigid employment that doesn’t accommodate appointments. In response, they’ve expanded the hours of their mental health counseling for youth and their families outside of standard work days to 8–5pm on Saturdays. They also hired a bilingual therapist with an extensive background in cognitive behavioral methods to support therapy services. Children can now get access to quality mental health care through funding provided by the CSF. In the process, they’ve reduced the wait time for families to receive crisis services that require immediate intervention.
For Luis, youth are his focus. He’s helped expand their substance use prevention from middle school to high school. And by engaging teens about their passions, interests and sports, he’s able to gain an inroad to talk to teens early on about the impact of their substance use decisions on their mental and physical wellbeing.
Educational opportunities to help families overcome stigmas about mental health that impact their community are also being addressed. Diane Rojas, VP of Health & Human Services is confident, “Overall, we’ve received a lot of positive feedback from the community regarding this program. It’s been successful in terms of our partnership with the CSF, but also in that families have been able to get access to services they knew their child really needed, but that they were fearful they couldn’t get.”
Providing Therapy to Generations of Families
Therapy for the little ones is so vital. Some have behavioral challenges caused by traumatic experiences that require longer-term counseling and therapy to work through. Parents also need guidance and counseling to navigate their own challenges in order to support the mental and emotional wellbeing of their children.
Providing therapy services also means going the extra mile, like purchasing a bike for a middle schooler to get to his appointments and opening the building for a high schooler without running water to shower before and after school. In these ways, they empower kids and eliminate further effects of bullying at school.
Looking behind and ahead, Guadalupe Centers has their eyes set on the generations of Latinos in Jackson County. They’re not only supporting families new to the U.S, but also second and third generation children who are building upon the foundations already invested in their parents. To Luis Alanis and Alexis Delany (Early Childhood & Youth Development lead), this investment early on in children is critical to instilling necessary skills to overcome challenges and inspire hope for a good future.
More Growth Means More Funding
Growing from a small grassroots neighborhood organization to incorporating a charter school system, the budget to operate Guadalupe Centers has grown significantly in the last 10 years. And they still have a lot more envisioned. They’ve purchased more property and facilities to serve more kids and families. They’re working on an elementary campus and quality, affordable housing for families and teachers. Luis has a vision for a more holistic approach to wrap around services for youth, too.
The Children’s Services Fund is grateful to provide funding to the Latino community through a passion-driven organization sensitive to their cultural thread. And the Guadalupe Centers team welcomes their place at the table during CSF’s listening sessions. Their voice is vital to solving children’s mental health issues and finding solutions. Learn more about how the CSF is collaborating with their partner organizations by subscribing to their monthly enews.