Virum, Virginia (WFXRMental health is a topic that is becoming less taboo in the mainstream. However, the behavioral health provider says more needs to be done to eliminate stigma within the Hispanic community.
“We don’t talk about it. It basically wasn’t there. There was a lot of ‘walking away from that person’ or nobody had a conversation, something as simple as anxiety,” said Victor Rivera, the behavioral health provider. “I’ve never met a single person of any race who doesn’t have some anxiety. It’s a completely normal thing that people experience. You never talk about it in Hispanic society. It’s never been brought up.”
Rivera has been a behavioral health provider for 13 years. The Puerto Rican national says his family moved to Franklin County when he was 15 years old. Since then, Rivera earned a degree in criminal justice from Verum College and worked in the probation and parole system until budget cuts cost him his job.
A friend reached out to Rivera and told him he would be a perfect fit for home mental health services, which led him to his current role and conversations with his family.
“The only reason my parents really talk to me about it is because of what I do. We see some of the struggles some families go through and things that start to happen that they want to know more about. It’s been the way in my family that we’ve managed to connect,” Rivera said. conversation, but it is still deeply stigmatized in Hispanic society.”
Rivera blames stigma on governance by society.
“People with any mental illness were viewed as ‘insane.’ When you hear all your life about this kind of struggle they are labeled that way and you are definitely afraid to talk about them,” Rivera said. “Because you don’t want to be seen in a certain way. You don’t want to be weak and then be judged for the things you say when you’re vulnerable.”
According to Rivera, there are other stigmas when it comes to mental health problems in Hispanic society, which have to do with issues of race, culture, and economy.
“Someone immigrating to a new country and possibly going through a certain amount of trauma in doing so – I haven’t met a single person in the Hispanic community I’m counseling for who doesn’t have PTSD. It’s all encompassing, whether it’s coming here and dealing with it in a way Certain, whether it is the process of getting to the United States,” Rivera added. “I have an individual I see who tried to get here, almost died, because there is no easy way to get here. He was trying to better strive for his family. So you get emotionally damaged along the way and you get here and you don’t speak the language.”
Rivera says one of the keys to helping the Hispanic community open up about their mental health issues is to develop trust with a counsellor. He says having a Hispanic counselor can help build that trust.
“It’s a better way than having a natural American, Caucasian who learns Spanish. Counseling is a social interaction. It’s a better way when you meet someone who naturally speaks the language. I grew up speaking Spanish. We still speak Spanish in my house. I listen to music in Spanish,” Rivera said. .
Rivera told WFXR that the biggest step is to talk about it.
“Normalize it. Diabetes, flu, colds, all these things are normal healthy conversations, but mental health is health,” Rivera said.