This article was first published in the Vail Daily on November 2, 2019.
About a year ago a local woman graduated from Family Leadership Training Institute. As most of those participants are, she was passionate about her project and determined to help make a change in her community — which is our community.
Guadalupe Ontiveros’ project focused on mental health, with a specific project of hosting an Eat Chat Parent event in Spanish. It’s language justice: half of our community speaks Spanish, yet a much smaller proportion of ECP attendees are Spanish-speaking. It’s not because only half of our population has a need to participate in these topics; it’s because it can feel off-putting to learn in a different language and through a different culture.
Ontiveros, a supervisor for integrated services with Eagle County, approached Carol Johnson, Mountain Youth’s community education manager, about her idea. Johnson responded enthusiastically.
“This is a brand new initiative by Mountain Youth because of requests received from past Spanish-speaking ECP attendees,” she said. “I was hearing that sometimes messages were being lost in translation or that the topic wasn’t always relevant to the Spanish-speaking community. This event is to address the needs of Spanish-speaking community directly and effectively.”
“About 30 percent of the population in Eagle County and over 50 percent of kids in the school district are Hispanic/Latinx. We need to do better at meeting the Spanish community’s behavioral health needs, not just by offering translation but by actually providing services and programs that are culturally relevant and responsive,” said Michelle Dibos, Community Engagement Director with Eagle Valley Behavioral Health. “This is why EVBH is so excited to have Dr. Janina Fariñas, a Latina leader and expert on Latinx Mental Health, leading a workshop on this important topic in our community.”
November 5 and 6 is the inaugural Eat Chat Parent “Therapy vs. Reinventing Yourself,” presented in Spanish with English translation. Alpine Bank is the underwriter of these Latinx presentations that will address the universal topic of mental health, and how self-care is paramount to improved behavioral health. Eat Chat Parent is presented by Vail Health/Eagle Valley Behavioral Health, organizations that strive to provide mental health services throughout the community.
“The goal is to open up the conversation to the Spanish-speaking community and to break mental health stigmas,” Johnson said. “We are breaking down barriers.” She adds that one of Mountain Youth’s values is bridging communities and this is one small step in that direction.
The keynote speaker is Dr. Janina Fariñas, a catalyst in behavioral health for the Latinx community. Dr. Farinas, is based in Ft. Collins and is family therapist and founder of La Cocina, which offers no-cost therapeutic services to Latino individuals and families.
With the increase in suicides in Eagle County, mental health is at the forefront of many conversations, making people more receptive to talk about mental health. Johnson adds that the way Dr. Fariñas presents encourages dialogue. “In our culture, it’s ‘how can we help each other?’ That is the approach Dr. Janina has, how to help each other. It’s a major step forward to open more doors…. Just knowing what other resources there are in the community.”
Participants can expect to connect in small groups, learning from and encouraging each other in acts of self-care to begin to establish self-care practices that improve daily lives — going beyond traditional therapy to cultivate positive mental health. Right now in Eagle County, there are Latinx groups meeting to encourage each other, to listen and to support each other. The sense of community is very strong and imperative to a strong mental health community. Sometimes, though, we need more. Olga Wilkins with the Family Resource Center will share how families can find resources right here in Eagle County.
As a community, we are trying to be more open about behavioral health and mental health issues, whether that is visiting a therapist or taking time to reflect, listen and learn together.