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Cloverdale nonprofit uses disaster relief funds to ease mental health needs in Latino community

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North Bay Suicide Prevention 24-hour hotline: 855-587-6373

NAMI Sonoma County warmline: 707-527-6655

Sonoma County Psychiatric Emergency Services: 707-576-8181

For information on Sonoma County support groups, call 707-527-6655 or go to namisonomacounty.org

211 Sonoma County: A free, confidential, 24/7 information and referral service and online database. Dial 2-1-1 or text your zip code to 898-211 for more help. 211sonoma.org/mental-health

Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741 (for those who are more comfortable texting than talking)

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.

So far, he’s met with Domínguez — with his children present — two times. His children prefer to talk with Domínguez in English, while he prefers Spanish.

He believes the sessions have helped him learn more about his kids, who are opening up about issues he previously knew nothing about.

“I hope to know my children better and manage problems when they’re angry, and well, get out everything that I hold inside when I’m very stressed,” he added.

Domínguez said the clients she’s serving, which include a few who she visits at nearby senior homes, are coming to her with a variety of concerns, among them suicide, divorce and discrimination in the workplace.

One of the things that is unique about the services her company provides through La Familia Sana is that they’ve been able to remove some of the “bureaucratic variables” typically experienced by those seeking therapy, Domínguez said.

“All that we require is your name, last name, date of birth and that’s it,” she said.

Both Weymouth and Domínguez underscored that a big part of the success of the program, which filled up within a month of accepting clients, had to do with outreach and gaining the trust of community members.

Mayra Arreguin, an outreach advocate for the nonprofit who helped get the word out about the program, met people at a local church or during weekly food distributions operated by the nonprofit and other groups.

“I go ask them, ‘What’s going on in your life?”’ Arreguin said. “And people start getting confidence with me.”

The broad interest in the program among the predominately Latino community it serves may also indicate that more services are needed for longer than the 11-month period covered by the grant, particularly amid a shortage of Spanish-speaking psychologists, Weymouth said.

A nationwide survey from the American Psychological Association released in 2016 found that only 5.5% of psychologists who responded said they were able to provide services in Spanish.

Domínguez said her case load and that of another On the Margins Spanish-speaking clinician working on the La Familia Sana project are full.

“The fact that we filled up so quickly speaks to this amazing thing that we have in our community,” Weymouth said. “It also speaks to the sadness; that Cloverdale and Geyserville have been so undeserved that a program filled up in less than a month.”

You can reach Staff Writer Nashelly Chavez at 707-521-5203 or nashelly.chavez@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @nashellytweets.

Need help?

North Bay Suicide Prevention 24-hour hotline: 855-587-6373

NAMI Sonoma County warmline: 707-527-6655

Sonoma County Psychiatric Emergency Services: 707-576-8181

For information on Sonoma County support groups, call 707-527-6655 or go to namisonomacounty.org

211 Sonoma County: A free, confidential, 24/7 information and referral service and online database. Dial 2-1-1 or text your zip code to 898-211 for more help. 211sonoma.org/mental-health

Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741 (for those who are more comfortable texting than talking)

Nashelly Chavez

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, The Press Democrat 

Who calls the North Bay home and how do their backgrounds, socioeconomic status and other factors shape their experiences? What cultures, traditions and religions are celebrated where we live? These are the questions that drive me as I cover diversity, equity and inclusion in Sonoma County and beyond.   

 

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