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Pensamientos Y Platicas: Combating the mental health in the Hispanic community

Eduardo Ibarra
Steeple of Kelly Center for Hunger Relief.

Across the borderland the Hispanic communities are highly populated, however are not desired to receive mental health resources due to the negative beliefs. Pensaminetos Y Platicas is finding a way to end the stigma of receiving mental health treatment across the sun city. 

This four-week program was launched to assess why the Hispanic population in El Paso does not seek out resources available to them. Mental health has been stigmatized throughout generations, possibly leading to the low numbers of Hispanics accessing mental health resources available to them.   

Assistant Professor of Social Work at UTEP, Jason Mallonee, says his research has been focused on mental health engagement since he came to UTEP a couple of years ago.  

“I started looking at some of the statistics in terms of who’s seeking out mental health services and who’s accessing services,” Mallonee said. “I identified a long-standing disparity in terms of Hispanic and Latino adults seeking out and being able to access mental health services,” Mallonee said.  

Mallonee says he saw this issue was not being addressed in conversations and the root of the problem developed from mental health professionals not engaging the community in conversations about mental health.   

“I wanted to know what were some of the reasons why people weren’t seeking services,” Mallonee said. “We conducted the focus groups to identify what those barriers were, and then I’ll ask for recommendations, like what could we be doing better as a mental health treatment community, and then we develop Pensamentos y Platiacs based off that feedback incorporating evidence on best practices.” Mallonee said.  

The program works in four pillars which outline the overall program: community engagement, cultural response, trauma-informed care and evidence-informed practice.   

“If you look at the research you see that people who have a challenging time meeting their basic needs, also tend to experience poor mental health,” Mallonee said. “That’s one of the reasons why we recruited all of our four focus group participants from the Kelly Center for Hunger Relief, which is a food pantry.” Mallonee said.  

The Kelly Center provides the Fresh Start Program, which is where the participants were recruited from.  

To enroll, participants must be 18 and over and will undergo screenings at the Kelly Center. Mallonee and his team created a workbook that follows the pillars through several interactive modules.   

Terms and mental health disorders are listed along with other resources that allow participants to learn different terms and understand what they may be experiencing. Pensamientos Y Platicas also have sessions both in English and Spanish, with sessions being 90 minutes.  

“We’re going through different conditions, and providing opportunities to reflect on that, then we’re gonna build awareness of mental health. They’re closed groups, so the same group of people spend the four weeks together,” Mallonee said. “We’re hoping to build some kind of connection between group members so that they can become part of their own support system and help people identify their support system,” Mallonee said.  

The program is starting its process of screenings. This four-week program is open to anyone who is not seeking mental health services and has unresolved mental health concerns. Mallonee and his team hope to build groups by the end of July and start the program the first week of August. For more information on the program, contact Jason Mallonee at (808) 639-3369 or [email protected].

Avery Escamilla-Wendell is the staff reporter and may be reached at [email protected] or on Instagram @by_avery_escamilla   

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About the Contributors
Avery Escamilla-Wendell, Multimedia Editor
Eduardo Ibarra, Contributor/Photographer
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