The new Madison program seeks to deny and expand access to mental health services for the Latino community

Nancy Gomez knows the need for mental health services existed before the pandemic and has only grown since then. But especially for the Latino community, he said that everything comes with access.

He wants to get the help he needs, but what if he doesn’t speak English? What if they are embarrassed by their needs? What if they have problems with transportation or insurance?

Gomez is a psychotherapist and director of Mental Health at Anesis Therapy in Madison, a program that provides culturally relevant training and clinics to break down barriers to mental health in the Latino community.

Compared to the national average of 45 percent, only about 34 percent of Hispanic / Latino adults receive treatment for their mental illness each year, according to NAMI, the National Alliance for Mental Illness.

Gomez said his Latino clients do not always feel that there is a place for them in the field of mental health. He joined WPR’s “The Morning Show” on Friday to discuss what the hurdles are, how his program can deal with them, and how group-oriented services, especially Latino community members, can help welcome members.

The following interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Kate Archer Kent: What barriers do Latinos face in seeking mental health services?

Nancy Gomez: Right now with the pandemic, and even before the pandemic, there was a huge need for people’s mental health services. So when the pandemic hit, that escalated. However, the biggest obstacles are language, financial parts, insurance parts and even transportation. The last part is that there aren’t many clinics that are bilingual. In general, it is about the accessibility of the resources of this population.

KAK: How is your Mental Health program dealing with these barriers?

NG: We are neglecting mental health. Whatever opportunity we get, we sit in schools, talking to parents about mental health from elementary school.

Within the cultural part, we are giving this understanding or information in a cultural lens … The name Mental Health itself means mental health in Spanish, because we wanted to be very transparent. That’s one of the big pieces. And the other is just to help clinicians feel comfortable practicing in Spanish.

KAK: Your clinic has six bilingual therapists on staff. What can happen when someone who speaks Spanish asks for advice?

NG: When a person searches for mental health services in Spanish, they often come across a translator, and sometimes those translators are not fully able to provide that cultural component. So they are often confused: “I’m not sure if you’re really capable of understanding that.” And then they move away from mental health resources. Knowing how difficult it is to find this piece of mental health has already conditioned us not to talk about things that might be difficult. Rather, it somehow endured. So within our staff, we are providing parallel support to physicians themselves so that they can provide that care to their clients and the community at large.

READ MORE: Anesis Therapy joins local churches to offer free Madison clinics

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Caller Question: How can the council help maintain bilingual mental health providers?

NG: What we are seeing are doctors who are coming here (and) practicing, leaving the Wisconsin area or Dane County for other options after getting certified. And the big part here is just providing resources and support for bilingual clinics. So that means sticking to the supports. This means keeping up with incentives, like other programs like social work, where they can receive payment for school support (e.g.) or even because doctors (who) are able to speak two languages. able to work in two different communities.

KAK: What effect does someone have when they have a clinic from a similar background?

NG: Huge. I pass this on to some clinics starting here in Anesis. Being in that space and having that shared identity without having to explain anything … it’s awesome in that sense. Many of my clients who are just starting out in mental health work didn’t know there was a place for them here. That is what is often said. Even the adults or parents I work with didn’t know that they were being welcomed in mental health spaces.

KAK: How Successful is Mental Health?

NG: We are constantly providing more training, not only for clinicians, but also for the community at large. Other clinics from other agencies are trained to understand how to provide this culturally appropriate lens by seeing clients and groups of parents or teens in this population. We have so many perspectives on what we want to do. It’s just more (about) capacity. That’s the big picture of a consistent, stable, sustainable, and ongoing program for the Dane County area.

KAK: How can support groups break down stigma in this area?

NG: Anesis is running different groups over the summer. Right now, we are a group of African American mothers. We want to do the same thing but in Spanish. So that means the parent group in Spanish, the substance use group in Spanish, and right now we’re going to start a youth art group in Spanish. So, especially for those who are looking for summer activities (walking), to have a space where they know that they are able to protect all their identities.

KAK: Can groups help open people up?

NG: Within the Latino population, we are a whole community-inspired population. So we want to offer that group setting to build more community and more mental health and make it something that is really celebrated and talked about.

KAK: How do you work in your community beyond mental illness beyond shame?

NG: That’s horrible, actually. I was at a community event a couple of weeks ago and (I saw) a lot of resistance. “I should be fine. Everything should be fine. Really, if I really want this to work, then I should be fine.” It’s just a matter of meeting customers where they are and verifying that they have those beliefs. This has helped them to reach a certain point, and it is no longer valid for them. It’s really about meeting where they are, being there and providing resources when they’re ready, and not so much rushing through the process.

If you or someone you know is thinking of committing suicide, call the Suicide Prevention Service at 1-800-273-8255 or call Hopeline 741741.

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