Virum, Virginia (WFXR) – Mental health is becoming less of a taboo topic in the mainstream, however, and the behavioral health provider says more needs to be done to eliminate stigma within the Hispanic and Hispanic communities.
“We don’t talk about it. It basically wasn’t there. There was a lot of ‘stay away from this person’ or no one 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 struggles that some families are going through and things that start to happen that they want to know more about. That was the way in my family we connected the conversation,” Rivera said. But it is still deeply stigmatized in Spanish society.”
Rivera blames stigma on governance by society.
“People with any mental illness were viewed as ‘crazy,’” Rivera said. “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.” . 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. Much of that stems from the fact that they had to immigrate to the United States. This is another layer of problems that they have to deal with as far as race, culture and economic issues within Hispanic society.
“Someone immigrating to a new country and maybe 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 across the board. Be it from coming here And deal with it a certain way. Whether it’s the process of coming to the United States,” added Rivera. “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 opening up to a Hispanic 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 to have someone American by birth, Caucasian learning Spanish. Counseling is a social interaction. It’s a better way when you meet someone who speaks the language by nature. I grew up speaking Spanish. We still speak Spanish in my house. I listen to music in Spanish.” Rivera said.
Rivera told WFXR News that the biggest move is talking about him.
“Normalise it. Diabetes, flu, colds, all these things are normal healthy conversations, but mental health is health,” Rivera said.