Cloverdale nonprofit uses disaster relief funds to ease mental health needs in Latino community
A year into the coronavirus pandemic, with the threat of another catastrophic wildfire season looming, Jade Weymouth, the executive director of the nonprofit social service agency La Familia Sana, began seeing signs that mental health concerns were growing among the Cloverdale-area families her organization serves.
One of those signs came in April when a La Familia Sana board member called Weymouth and told her about a nonprofit committee meeting that was attended by various local leaders, farmworkers and other community members — many of whom were Latino and spoke Spanish, Weymouth said.
Several people there talked about mounting challenges they and their relatives are facing — issues with drug use or depression and thoughts of suicide, the board member told her.
Concerned, Weymouth said she and others at La Familia Sana felt they needed to take action.
“It’s just the trauma of living paycheck to paycheck. Putting food on the table. Normal challenges in our life,” Weymouth said. “Then, you compound that with the fact of the wildfires.”
Using funds from a $150,000 disaster relief grant from the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Disaster Philanthropy, which was awarded to La Familia Sana in August, the agency began working to address the mental health impacts of recent wildfires on the Cloverdale and Geyserville residents it serves.
Nationally, serious mental illnesses in Latino and Hispanic people ages 18-25 rose from 4% to 6.4% between 2008 and 2018, according to Mental Health America, a Virginia-based nonprofit dedicated to addressing the needs of those living with mental illnesses. For Latino and Hispanics ages 26-49, that number increased from 2.2% to 3.9% in the same period.
This specific group has also experienced an upswing in depressive episodes, which have increased from 4% to 12% among those ages 18-25 between 2015 and 2018. And, among Latino and Hispanic people ages 26-49, depressive episodes increased by 1.5%, up from 4.5%, the nonprofit said.
Suicidal thoughts, plans, and attempts are also rising among Latinx/Hispanic young adults.
According to Mental Health America data, though still lower than comparable groups in the overall U.S. population, 8.6% of Latinx/Hispanic 18-25 year-olds had serious thoughts of suicide in 2018, up from 7% in 2008, while, 3% made a plan in 2018, up from 2% in 2008, and 2% made an attempt in 2018, compared to 1.6% in 2008.
La Familia Sana, which formed out of volunteer efforts during the 2019 Kincade fire, works with other organizations to host a weekly food distribution for vulnerable and low-income families in Cloverdale and Geyserville.
It has now partnered with On the Margins, LLC to provide mental health services at no cost to its clients.
On the Margins is a San Francisco-based consulting, coaching and therapy business that works with marginalized communities and aims to disrupt systems of oppression, according to Dr. Daniela Domínguez, a psychologist who founded the business.
Because of the Center for Disaster Philanthropy funds, the program, which began in October, can offer free mental health services for nearly 11 months to 60 to 80 people, depending on the extent of the help needed.
The services On the Margins currently offers range from one-on-one and family sessions out of a local church with a psychologist to teletherapy, as well as a hotline for on-the-spot support during set hours Monday through Friday.
Organizers with La Familia Sana are also looking for a venue where they can hold confidential group therapy sessions in the future, though funding for the space is not covered by the grant, Weymouth said.
Weymouth said the nonprofit reached out to On the Margins because they offered therapy services that were in Spanish, as well as culturally informed about the predominately Latino population La Familia Sana serves.
“It’s, you’re speaking the same language and you’re speaking the same language,” Weymouth said. “There’s a lot of things that are left unsaid when yes, you may have someone who may speak Spanish fluently, but they may not understand the nuances of culture.”
The bilingual aspect of the initiative is vital for one of Dominguez’s patients, an undocumented single father of two children who and works in agriculture.
The Press Democrat is not identifying him due to his undocumented status and because he believes there is a stigma in the Latino community associated with mental illness and those who seek help for those kinds of problems.
The 38-year-old Cloverdale resident man said he learned about the free therapy sessions from a relative and decided to sign up. He recognized that he needed help coping with the stresses of work and being a single dad.