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Collaborations Bring Emotional Health & Wellbeing Conversations to the Latinx Community

Tuesday, March 17, 2020   (0 Comments)
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A Graduate Psychology Program, A Hospital Community Health Division, and Promotores de Salud Collaborate to Bring Emotional Health and Wellbeing Conversations to the Latinx Community 


Written by: 

Ruth Zúñiga, PhD*; Joanna Sendejo, BA*, Delfina Hernandez, BA**; Bonnie Lerner, MPH**; Alejandra Ferris, MA*; Carolina Ekonomo, MBA, MA*; and Natalia Figueroa, BA*


*Sabiduría: Latinx Psychology Emphasis, School of Graduate Psychology, Pacific University

**Providence Community Health Division and Promotores de Salud de la Iglesia Program


Latinx communities face a unique number of stressors that impact their mental health. This includes acculturative stress, immigration status, discrimination, social isolation, language barriers, inadequate housing, poor job conditions and low incomes (Kouyoumdjian, Zamboanga & Hansen, 2003). Unfortunately, Latinx communities also experience a combination of barriers to accessing and utilizing mental health services and treatment. Among these are lack of health insurance, unfamiliarity with the health system, lack of culturally competent providers, inadequate culturally responsive mental health treatments, language barriers, low health literacy, lack of information and mental health and cultural stigmas (Russell & Doucette, 2012; Kouyoumdjian, Zamboanga & Hansen, 2003; Villatoro, Morales & Mays, 2014).

In an effort to remove many of these barriers, and also in a response to a large community needs assessment study conducted in 2016 in the Oregon Metro Area, a partnership was created between the Providence Health and Services’ Community Health Division, the Sabiduría Emphasis of Pacific University's School of Graduate Psychology and Providence's Promotores de Salud de la Iglesia (Parish-Based Health Promoters). This partnership includes two main components, first, it offers mental health trainings for promotores de salud and second, it delivers community charlas –community conversations– about mental health topics.

The goals of the promotores trainings are to increase the knowledge, comfort and skills of promotores to address Latinx community emotional needs and to empower promotores to educate their communities to ultimately reduce the stigma associated with mental health. Additionally, the trainings also serve the purpose of supporting the promotores own emotional health and wellness. The trainings are taught in Spanish by bi-lingual bicultural doctoral psychology students and faculty, using popular education methods and emphasize applicable skills, self-care, community empowerment and information about resources. A total of 84 promotores have participated in these trainings.

Upon completion of the training, promotores de salud and graduate psychology students co-lead charlas (community conversations) in Spanish about emotional health wellness on how to take care of one’s family and community - following a similar content and format than the received trainings. The charlas’ aims are to start conversations about mental health, to provide basic psychoeducation about mental health, to reduce stigma associated to mental health and to connect community members with local mental health resources. Through the charlas, participant’s experiences are validated, their questions about mental health are answered and they receive mental health referrals and follow ups as needed.

From October 2019 to December 2019, promotores de salud alongside graduate psychology students provided 13 community charlas. A total number of 300 Latinx community members participated with ages ranging from 14-79 years old. The charlas encompassed topics such as stress management, depression, suicide prevention, domestic violence, healthy relationships, and substance abuse. The charlas have been held throughout various locations across the community, including churches and parishes, community health centers and community-based organizations.


Presentation materials used for community charlas


The charlas have been well received amongst the Latinx community. Charla participants said these conversations have been informative and easy to understand. Specifically, most of the attendants agreed that the charlas have contributed to expansion of their knowledge and understanding of mental health. The charlas also helped the attendees remove misconceptions and stigma they had about mental health. Participants enjoyed learning about self-help tools such as deep breathing, culturally-adapted mindfulness, and other relaxation techniques.


Me gustó [la charla] porque por primera ves he escuchado a una persona profesional hablar de este tema. (I liked it because it was the first time I had heard a professional talk about this subject.)”

-Words shared by charla participant 


Additionally, the attendees gained the ability to identify how and when to help someone in need of mental health support. The charlas also increased the knowledge regarding the community mental health resources available in the Portland-Oregon Metro Area. Also, many of the charlas participants received support in accessing mental health and basic needs resources. These conversations provide connections for community members and support them in accessing and seeking mental health services.



“Me gustó enterarme más del estrés y aprendí a como a respirar mejor y como usarla [respiración] cuando tengo estrés” (I liked that I learned more about stress and how to breathe better and how to focus on my breathing when I have stress.)”

-Words shared by a charla participant



The program was created by bilingual and bicultural Latinx mental health professionals and was supported by a cultural advisory board composed of promotores and community health specialists. The program includes cultural and linguistic appropriate techniques to promote community’s emotional wellbeing. This program demonstrates that Promotores can be a conduit to support the emotional wellbeing of Latinxs and to increase trust in mental health resources. Also, it shows that a collaboration between promotores and psychologists is a culturally appropriate way of bringing mental health to the Latinx community. Promotores de salud can be vital in tearing down barriers, reaching and supporting mental health and behavioral interventions within underserved communities. Promotores de salud can support the emotional wellbeing of Latinxs, increasing trust, equity and access to local mental health services and overall healthcare.


Community members participating in a charla activity

Throughout 2020, the partnership hopes to expand the number of charlas across the Portland Metro Area with the goal of reaching 1000 community members. We are looking forward to continuing this collaboration in hopes of removing barriers to Latinxs’ mental health. Also, we hope similar partnerships and programs are developed within the region. For more information about this partnership or if interested in bringing this program to your community please contact Dr. Ruth Zúñiga from Pacific University at rzuniga@pacificu.edu or Bonnie Lerner from Providence at bonnie.lerner@providence.org



Kouyoumdjian, H., Zamboanga, B. L., & Hansen, D. J. (2003). Barriers to community mental health services for Latinos: Treatment considerations. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 10(4), 394–422.

Russell, M. & Doucette, D.W. (2012). Latinx Acculturative Stress Implications, Psychotherapeutic Processes, and Group Therapy. Graduate Journal of Counseling Psychology: Vol. 3: Iss. 1, Article 9. Retrieved at https://epublications.marquette.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1049&context=gjcp

Villatoro, A. P., Morales, E. S., & Mays, V. M. (2014). Family Culture in Mental Health Help-Seeking and Utilization in a Nationally Representative Sample of Latinxs in the United States: The NLAAS. The American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 84 (4), 353–363.

This program is possible thanks to the support and funding by Oregon Community Foundation and Providence Foundation







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