Happy Hispanic Heritage Month! We spoke with Lupita Rodriguez, MS, Program Director of the Health Education Council about her Latina heritage and how she’s experienced mental health and wellness within the Hispanic community.
Learn more about the Health Education Council at the link above, and find Spanish-language mental health resources from us at Stop Stigma Sacramento at https://www.stopstigmasacramento.org/communities/espanol/!
Stop Stigma Sacramento: Please describe your Hispanic/Latino heritage – where are you and your family from, what language(s) do you speak, what was your upbringing like?
Lupita Rodriguez: I am Mexican-American. My parents are from Jalisco, Mexico and they emigrated to California in the 80s. I grew up speaking Spanish at home and learned English when I started elementary school. My siblings and I learned many valuable lessons seeing our parents navigate life as Spanish-speaking immigrants in the US, and for that we consider ourselves very fortunate.
SSS: How were mental health and wellness discussed or prioritized in your family growing up?
LR: Spirituality and faith were very important when addressing mental health in my family. Although we didn’t necessarily call-out emotions, we valued sharing and listening to each other.
SSS: What was your experience telling your family/community about your mental health condition(s) for the first time (if applicable)? Did you experience any cultural stigma?
LR: Sometimes family members have our best interests at heart and truly want to help, but they don’t know the right words to support you. I have felt this has been true for me. However, I try to acknowledge their love and their desire to support. There are others in my life who are masters at sitting with me and just listening, that is a hard skill! I am fortunate to have all these individuals, they have gotten me through difficult times.
SSS: In what ways do you feel stigma toward mental illness appear in the Hispanic/Latino community, and what do you wish the community would understand about mental illness and the stigma that surrounds it?
LR: I believe many in the Latino community are raised to be extraordinarily resilient and might feel that they don’t need others’ support to feel better when they are not feeling their best. I also believe that many in the Latino community will open up and share with someone they trust and that shares their culture and language. Therefore, we need to have services available that speak to the needs, culture, language, location (etc.) of the community being served. Only this way will individuals feel safe to receive important messages about mental health, such as how common they are and that they are not alone, there are people who can walk alongside them toward wellness.
SSS: What other advice or learnings would you like to share with members of the Sacramento Hispanic/Latino community who might be struggling to maintain their mental health and not know where to turn?
LR: You are not alone! No estás sol@! Mental health struggles are very common and there are people who can support you. Start small, reach out to someone or an organization you trust. There are people in your community, like promoters, community health leaders, that can point you in the right direction.
With the U.S.’ Hispanic/Latino population projected to reach 119 million by 2060, it is increasingly important to reduce the fear and shame of discussing mental health among this community and raise awareness of the many resources available for those who need help. Get connected with Sacramento’s Health Education Council, and find Spanish-language mental health resources here at Stop Stigma Sacramento!