Counseling, Advocacy, and Social Change for Hispanic Communities
By Xiomara A. Sosa
Walden University, and GSC Southern Region Liaison
Hispanic Heritage Month was Sept. 15–Oct. 15. Although I have never felt that designating only one month of the year is sufficient to recognize the scores of positive contributions Hispanics have made to our nation, I am grateful, and I understand why the need to do so still exists. By coincidence, I wrote this article for The Advocateat a time when I was launching an advocacy and social change project for Hispanic Heritage Month.
The National Hispanic Mental Health Professionals Advocacy Network (HMHP) promotes education, awareness, and advocacy for the mental health service needs of U.S. Hispanic communities. HMHP’s vision is to create a strongly connected community of Hispanic mental health professionals and to im-prove culturally relevant communication and advocacy for the mental health needs of the Hispanic community. On HMHP, I partnered with Angelica Perez, publisher of NEW LATINA, and a Huffington Post contributor.
HMHP is one of six networks I have launched from my mental health and wellness coaching practice, XAS Consulting, LLC. Together, the networks are a bilingual, culturally competent, multi-platform advocacy campaign for diverse communities. The XAS Advocacy Network Series aims to advocate for culturally competent mental health and wellness and health and human services needs that effect positive social change for Hispanic, veteran, and sexual-minority communities. Sexual minorities include lesbians, gays, bisexuals, questioning, queer, transgender, and intersexed (LGBQQTI).
Advocacy for Hispanics Is Essential
Hispanics are challenged with access to and disparities in health and human services. Studies have found that bilingual patients are evaluated differently when interviewed by a mono-lingual health care provider and are more likely to be undertreated.
Cultural attitudes also influence use of mental health services. For example, conditions such as clinical depression are believed to be nervousness, fatigue, or some other physical health issue that will pass. When experiencing a mental health crisis, Hispanics rely heavily on extended family, traditional healers, and faith groups rather than seeking pro-fessional help.
Other barriers they face to mental health treatment include cost, lack of awareness, and the negative stigma associated with seeking care. The lack of culturally relevant and appropriate services and intervention strategies adds to those barriers.
Join Me in Creating Positive Social Change!
My parents raised numerous foster children while I was grow-ing up. Seeing the consequences faced by the families of these children due to lack of mental health services made me aware of the need for advocacy.
My advocacy work, which is based on empirical, evidence-based research data, is done through two nonprofit organizations I founded—The Get-Right! Organization, Inc., which encourages mental health and physical health, and the You Are Strong! Center on Veterans Health and Human Services, which helps combat negative stigma.
I invite you to join me in advocating for issues affecting these underserved communities. You do not need to be Hispanic, a veteran, or a sexual minority to join and support any of the networks. I welcome all!