Mental health among Latinos dissected during Los Cien talk

As a youth intern for Latino Service Providers, a Sonoma County nonprofit that boosts local Latinos’ access to health care, education and other types of community services, Mar Rivas has learned how housing, environment, well-being and mental health interlace.

She said their connections became particularly apparent earlier this year when she enrolled in virtual therapy sessions through the nonprofit. The virtual aspect was necessary due to the coronavirus pandemic safety precautions that were still in place at the time, Rivas said.

Because the Wi-Fi is weak in her room, she said she moved to her parents’ bedroom in order to have the sessions. The signal there was better.

But, what she gained in access, she lost in privacy as her brother and parents moved freely through the home and occasionally into the bedroom during her sessions, Rivas said.

Such a predicament is common in the Latino community, she said. “For Latinos, when it comes to reaching out and trying to pursue westernized mental health services, they are often inaccessible,” she added.

Part of a panel put together by Los Cien, the Latino leadership group, Rivas shared this story during a discussion last week about mental health, its stigmas and the Latino community.

Psychologists Dr. Michael Valdovinos and Dr. Daniela Domínguez, as well as Nubia Padilla, the executive director of the mental health nonprofit Humanidad Therapy & Education Services, rounded out the panel of the Oct. 28 event. It was moderated by Santa Rosa Diversity, Inclusion, and Equal Employment Officer Socorro Shiels.

Shiels underscored the community traumas that exist in this region, which range from natural disasters, such as fires and floods, to social disadvantages and economic disparities and lauded the resilience of the local Latino community.

“Much of this comes from protective assets in the culture, the sense of (family) that you hear about here in Los Cien meetings,” Shiels said. “That sacred kinship that brings us together.”

Domínguez said Sonoma County needs to have an honest conversation about which of its systems elevate the lives of people who are white, wealthy and cisgender, (those whose gender identity matches the sex they were assigned at birth) while also oppressing those who are not.

“Once we can name that, and be really brave and courageous, and underline that, then we can start having a real conversation about mental health,” said Domínguez.

The CEO of On the Margins, LLC, a San Francisco-based organization that collaborates with others to design and implement anti-racist, equitable, and affirming programs, practices, initiatives, and policies particularly within the education and health care industries, Domínguez added, “We’re not there yet, and so we have to do a lot of work on the interconnectivity between diversity, equity, belonging and mental health.”

Padilla, the executive director of Humanidad Therapy & Education Services, a Santa Rosa-based mental health nonprofit, said some of the barriers preventing Latinos from accessing mental health help are unspoken and cultural.

“We come from this colonialist mentality that what we get is enough,” she said. “It’s a lack of entitlement. We feel that we’re not entitled, that ‘This is not for us.’”

Rivas, the Latino Service Providers intern, said navigating work schedules, childcare and the cost of therapy sessions, which can be as much as $160 an hour sans insurance, can all complicate efforts to obtain mental health services.

Focusing on the good things in one’s life can improve a person’s mental health, while also seeking out nonprofit resources that might deviate from traditional methods that don’t always work.

“We can de-stigmatize mental health by showing that mental health has so many facets that affect it,” Rivas said, adding that people can look for what’s available and educate themselves and those around them.

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

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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