By Karen Stokes
Mental health is a health concern among the Hispanic/Latino community. Sixteenth Street Community Health Center’s Adolescent Day Treatment Program is helping children and families address mental health.
“When we opened the Adolescent Day Treatment Program it was the first in the state that was community based,” said Dr. William Reyes, PHD, clinical psychologist. “We serve children from the age of 6-18. They are put in groups according to age and we provide mental help services that traditional outpatient settings are unable to do.”
Each participant in the Adolescent Treatment program receives an in-depth mental health evaluation that is used to develop an individualized treatment plan. Everyone, regardless of financial circumstances, is eligible for the program.
“As a parent, they know their child better than anybody. If you see any changes, it’s not a waste of time to get an evaluation. Maybe it’s nothing, but if it’s something, everything in time is more treatable than waiting when things get out of hand,” said Reyes.
The program is 5 days a week, 3 ½ hours, half day at the program and half day at school.
“We provide group therapy, experimental therapy, we use drawing, painting, music and dancing, we do medication management and family therapy, which is essential as well,” Dr. Reyes said.
According to Suicide Prevention Center (September 2022), Black and Hispanic Americans are more likely to be struggling with mental health compared to their White peers.
There are many life circumstances that can negatively affect a child’s mental well-being such as psychiatric disorders, substance abuse, or exposure to bullying. The unprecedented effect that COVID-19 has had on their school and home lives has also caused a lot of stress for much of Milwaukee’s youth population.
“Latino and African American women and youth are prone to experience a high percentage of mental health because they have to navigate two different cultures, their culture and the dominant culture in the U.S. These are more stressors that they had to face and typically Latinos and African Americans seek services at a lower rate than whites,” said Dr. Reyes. “It could be access or it could be they have other priorities and usually they go when they are in crisis.”
According to Mental Health America, for the Latino community, mental health and mental illness are often stigmatized topics resulting in prolonged suffering in silence. This silence compounds the range of experiences that may lead to mental health conditions including immigration, acculturation, trauma, and generational conflicts.
More than half of Latino young adults ages 18-25 with serious mental illness may not receive treatment. This inequality puts these communities at a higher risk for more severe and persistent forms of mental health conditions, because without treatment, mental health conditions often worsen, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
“It’s still a stigma for African Americans and Latinos to get mental health care. It’s viewed as a weakness,” said Dr. Reyes. “You know that every year you have to get a physical checkup, why wouldn’t you go to get a mental health checkup?”
“I think prevention is something we need to invest in. People should realize if we are not mentally stable, it doesn’t matter how healthy you are physically,” he said.