Students, Teachers Push for Big Mental Health Solutions


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Nearly 1 in 5 Latinos suffers a mental health problem.

But Latinos are less likely than other groups to seek out treatment for mental health conditions.

They fear being stigmatized. They lack of health insurance. They face cultural barriers. Or they simply a fail to recognize symptoms.

That’s why we at Salud America! are spotlighting heroes who are improving mental health for Latino families!

Irán Barrera: Helping Latinos Answer Mental Health Questions

Dr. Irán Barrera believes there is a difference between mainstream mental health and Latino mental health.

Latinos don’t use words like anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress.

Dr. Irán Barrera and a student
Dr. Irán Barrera and a student (via Fresno State)

This means health professionals need training to address Latinos’ mental health needs.

That’s why Barrera applied for and received grant money to start the Consejo project at Fresno State. The project trains social work students to deliver mental health services and other support to Spanish-speaking children, teens, and families in the San Joaquin Valley, SaludToday reported in March 2017.

The Consejo project has two goals.

First is to examine and eliminate the mental health care barriers in the area. Second is to increase the number of local bilingual behavioral health professionals.

“The San Joaquín Valley has the worst emotional health in California,” Barrera said. “Compared to other regions, (it is) not good emotional health as the other regions to put it in a different perspective. Latinos are one of the biggest minorities groups in the state, but one that is least to utilize mental health services compared to other groups.”

Jestina Ortega: Student Pushes for Mental Health Diversity

Jestina Ortega, a senior at Syracuse University, is all about diversity.

Jestina Ortega
Jestina Ortega (via the Daily Orange)

She raises cultural awareness as co-host of Hora Latina, a Latino radio show, and as part of Latinx Undergraduates Creating History in America (La LUCHA). She also is part of a student group that advocates for sexual safety and empowerment.

Ortega hopes to attend graduate school in social psychology.

She wants to increase diversity in the mental health field, she told the Daily Orange. She also wants to dispel myths and help Latinos and blacks get proper mental health treatment.

“It’s usually family members so we don’t have a good network, or maybe they just don’t understand the medical or clinical reasoning for all of this,” Ortega told the Daily Orange. “They usually just say, ‘pray about it,’ and make it a religious thing instead of something to seek help for.”

Kevin Cokley: Researching Students’ Mental Health Issues

Why do Latino and other minority college students report higher rates of depression and anxiety than their white peers?

Professor Kevin Cokley in the Department of Educational Psychology at The University of Texas at Austin.
Dr. Kevin Cokley (via

The “imposter phenomenon” is a big reason, according to a new study by Dr. Kevin Cokley of UT Austin.

Those who suffer from impostor feelings cannot grasp or believe in their successes, leading them to feel like frauds, Inside Higher Ed reports.

Cokley and other researchers found that black students with imposter-related feelings had higher levels of anxiety and depression related to perceived discrimination. Latino students with similar feelings, surprisingly, didn’t suffer much anxiety or depression. This is perhaps due to a line of thinking that they can’t do much to change the discrimination they face, the researchers wrote.

The researchers are putting their findings into practice.

Cokley sent a copy of the study to UT Austin’s counseling office to guide future trainings, according to Inside Higher Ed. He hopes counselors start to question students about any imposter-related fears.

“We sometimes have a tendency to homogenize the experiences of students of color,” he told Inside Higher Ed. “They all experience discrimination to some extent, but it’s very different experiences. It’s important to be nuanced and to appreciate and to understand the experiences.”

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of Latino youth have depressive symptoms (a rate higher than most other groups).

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