By Elyssa Diamond
In celebration of National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month last year, NAMI Montgomery County, Md., shared a message of hope with Latino parishioners at St. Jude’s Church in Rockville. Following the weekly Sunday night Mass in Spanish, we organized the NAMI program Compartiendo Esperanza.
It can be difficult to raise the topic of mental health among Latinos. Many individuals in the community take care of their family by holding down multiple jobs. Physical health is often not as high a priority as getting the work done, so mental health can be viewed as a luxury.
Even though this is a challenging topic in this community, over 50 people attended the presentation. Two NAMI volunteers—a family member and a person living with a mental health condition—shared their personal stories and led an interactive presentation. The family member recounted vivid stories of living in her home country with an aunt who struggled with schizophrenia. The other presenter moved the audience with her story of overcoming difficult symptoms of both obsessive-compulsive disorder and mild autism.
After the presentation, a reception was held with food donated by local restaurants, including a favorite local Latino bakery. The reception provided a chance for everyone to mingle and talk to the speakers. Attendees even began to share their own stories.
Overall, the event was a huge success. It gave NAMI Montgomery County, Md. the opportunity to develop a long-term relationship with the church. The event also led to increased participation in our support groups and also helped us gain a program volunteer.
Presenting Compartiendo Esperanza can help NAMI Affiliates reach out to nearby Latino communities in a setting where attendees feel comfortable. It’s a great way to start the conversation about Latino mental health. To learn more about the program, click here.
Elyssa L. Diamond, MSW, is the Advocacy & Latino Programs Coordinator at NAMI Montgomery County, Md., where she has worked for more than two years. Bilingual in English and Spanish, she has honed her multicultural competency by working at a variety of non-profit organizations and the Montgomery County Government.
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