Mental Health Awareness
May 1, 2018
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. For those of us who work in human services, mental health has long been considered as critical to individual and collective success as physical health. We live in a world that challenges us everyday. We strive to overcome these challenges and thrive. However, our often-hostile environments create an abundance of toxic stress that must be actively combated to improve health and life outcomes.
The trauma experienced in our communities is profound on a historical level and remains palpable. Trauma and toxic stress produce negative mental and physical health outcomes, poor economic outcomes, and severely limit our educational achievement. The constant micro and macro aggressions faced by communities of color, women, LBGTQ, immigrant, and refugee communities inflict a heavy toll on our psyche and our bodies. Intersectionality and poverty compounds this impact exponentially.
Throughout history our communities have proven to be resilient, but we cannot ignore the need for accessible mental health services and nontraditional mental health approaches that build on the cultural assets embedded in our communities. Culturally effective mental health approaches should aim to strengthen our individual, family, and community resiliency to break the cycles of dependency and counter the oppressive historical narrative that negatively impacts our well-being.
Over the last two decades, Safe Passages has fought to increase the accessibility of mental health services and to innovate new culturally responsive approaches to improving mental health in the communities we serve. In addition to securing resources to strengthen the safety net for vulnerable children, youth, and families, we implement culturally responsive strategies in our Baby Learning Communities Collaborative Program, School Linked Services, and Law and Social Justice initiatives. Most recently, Safe Passages was selected by the California Public Health Department’s Office of Health Equity to participate in the California Reducing Disparities Project. The goal of the project is to address the toxic stress experienced by African American youth and improve their mental health outcomes.
As we continue our pursuit of social justice and actively work toward better outcomes for youth and families in our communities, let us maintain a steady focus on improving mental health practices and accessibility to effective mental health services.
Josefina Alvarado Mena, Esq.