Fresno’s Latino Community Gathers to Promote Mental Wellness

The Fresno Latino community joined local mental health advocates at Saturday’s “Latino Family Wellness Event: Live a Healthier Life/El Bienestar de una Familia Latina: Cómo Vivir una Vida Más Saludable,” an event aimed to break down barriers to mental wellness. Latino families gathered to explore new ways to overcome the stigma associated with mental illness that stops many Latinos struggling with a mental health challenge from seeking the help they need. Hosted in partnership with the County of Fresno Department of Behavioral Health, more than 100 members of the community joined this conversation.

A recent article featured on Latin Post highlights why it’s important conversations such as these continue. It discusses the stigma many in the Latino community place on those in need of mental health services. County of Fresno Supervisor Henry Perea welcomed the crowd this past Saturday and shared the importance of recognizing mental wellness as being equally important as physical wellness. Perea also stressed that those who experience mental health challenges can live a happy and productive life with the proper support and treatment.

We can all make our community stronger and healthier by being part of the solution to ending stigma and discrimination associated with mental illness. Recovery is possible, but only if people experiencing mental health challenges seek and receive help. With compassion, acceptance and understanding in our families, at our workplaces and in our community, we can help our friends, neighbors and colleagues on their path to wellness.

Supervisor Henry Perea speaks at event about how to promote mental wellness within the Latino community. (Photo by Silvia Flores )

During the panel discussion moderated by local reporter Sandy Sanchez, panelists Elda Bañuelos, Evangelina Rodriguez, Roselia Madera and Leon Velasco shared stories of recovery and strength.  Elda, a mental health clinician from the County of Fresno Department of Behavioral Health who has worked with the Central Valley’s Latino community in education and mental health for more than 17 years and local community members, informed the audience about supportive culturally-relevant resources available. Evangelina shared about her struggles with bipolar disorder, and Roselia talked about how she helped her mother-in-law face the challenges of schizophrenia when nobody else in her family would. Leon highlighted his experiences dealing with mental health challenges since he was a young boy and how he now lives a healthy, happy life and helps others to do the same through his work at Centro La Familia.

Panelists share their stories at Saturday's event. Pictured from left to right, Evangelina Rodriguez, Roselia Madera, Leon Velasco, and Elda Bañuelos.

After the panel discussion, questions were asked from the audience. A number of family members stepped up and asked how and where they can get help for their sons and daughters who are facing mental illness.

Guest asks panelists question about how to support a family member. Photo by Silvia Flores.

In addition to the program, a number of community organizations were onsite to provide guests resources about how to promote wellness in their lives. Organizations included:  Department of Behavioral Health, 2-1-1 United Way, Centro la Familia, Clinica Sierra Vista, and Holistic Cultural and Education Wellness Center. Attendees were also invited to join the movement and stayed connected to others who are part of SanaMente.