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Mental health support for Pittsburgh’s Hispanic community

By Claire Lindsey, Journalism Intern

In 2021, it is important to ask yourself, “Am I taking care of myself?” Typically when we think of our health, we think about our physical well being. We wash our hands frequently. We wear masks religiously. We reach for the thermometer when we feel even slightly ill.

While the pandemic has caused us to pay close attention to our physical health, it has also magnified the importance of our mental health.

In 2020, the US Census Bureu found that 42.4% of adults reported experiencing symptoms of anxiety and/or depressive disorder during the pandemic, as reported by the Kaiser Family Foundation. The same study found that 46.3% of Hispanic or Latino adults experienced those symptoms. 

Treatment for mental illness can look different for everyone. There are several different paths for therapy and local organizations are working to support the Latino community.

Casa San Jose has multiple services to help community members manage their mental health. Casa’s Mental Health Coordinator Jannette Castro and the Mental Health Case Aide Sandra Fuentes work to connect community members to services that will help them. They make recommendations for psychiatrists, therapists, social workers, and other professionals.

Casa’s services are offered in Spanish and clients do not need health insurance to access them. 

Fuentes says that they are fully committed to helping Latinos, no matter where they are from or where they currently live.

“Casa San Jose is trying to help Hispanic Americans for all the ways we can find,” she said.

In September, Casa began offering a support group for victims of domestic violence. Castro said that the groups will be small, around 8-10 people, so victims can feel comfortable sharing their experiences.

Since Casa launched their mental health program last October, Castro says they have been able to help over 110 people. 

“The number is rising,” she said. “Every day we help more and more people.”

There are plenty of resources for the younger members of our communities who may be struggling.

Any youth between the ages of 12 and 22 who are seeking therapy are eligible for the services at UpStreet, an organization in Pittsburgh that offers therapy for free.

UpStreet offers therapy to Spanish speaking youth by offering sessions with translators. One of the organization’s psychotherapists, Shelby Williams, says that while sessions with a translator may take longer than usual, sessions can be extended if needed.

Williams says that clients do not need insurance, and all sessions are free.

“We don’t charge for any of our services,” she said. “The only thing that (clients) would need is a private place to speak.”

All of UpStreet’s services are currently virtual, so sessions are held over phone or video calls. Appointments can be scheduled on the website, or by calling 412-422-7200.

“Therapy is like having an unbiased outsider in your corner,” said Williams. “Even if things are going great, it never hurts to have someone to talk through situations with you.”

Sometimes it feels like we can’t wait for a scheduled appointment. Sometimes our need for support is urgent.

If you or a loved one are in distress or having a mental health crisis, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

If you need assistance in English, you can call 1-800-273-8255. If you need to speak to someone in Spanish, call 1-888-628-9454.

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