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Changing the landscape: How DSST's social work team is confronting systemic barriers impacting mental health support in the Latinx/Hispanic community

September is Hispanic Heritage month and as we honor the culture, we also want to raise awareness of some of the mental health struggles the Latinx/Hispanic community faces. Mental health and mental illness are often stigmatized topics that result in prolonged suffering in silence, which can end in suicide. 

A 2019 study found that in the U.S., Latinx access mental health care at nearly half the rate of non-Hispanic white people. The Latinx/Hispanic community faces unique institutional and systemic barriers that may impede access to mental health services, resulting in reduced help-seeking behaviors.

Karina Mosqueda, a second-year Social Worker at DSST: Montview High School, spoke to us about making an impact in DSST students' lives. 

“Going through school, I feel more capable of addressing the stigma and normalizing mental health issues in the community that I serve,” Mosqueda said. “It means a lot to me to work in a community that is similar to the community that I grew up in.”

Mosqueda said growing up she felt that her culture and identity were not reflected or represented in her schools, and this is unfortunately still the case for many schools today. That is why she takes pride in her work.

“I love being able to connect to students of the same heritage and speak to parents in their native language and relate to them culturally,” Mosqueda said. “Being a Latinx service provider for a school with a large Latinx population is something special to me. I know how much representation means to me and our students.”

While we are highlighting how it affects the Latinx/Hispanic community, it is important to note that everyone is at risk for mental illness and should receive early and effective interventions based on their unique needs.

Michelle Frias, Social Worker from DSST: Conservatory Green Middle School, believes that “working with students on learning how to be in tune with their body and mind will best support their needs to grow and embrace their personal experiences.” Michelle’s “why” is driven by her own personal experience with misunderstandings of mental health and she is dedicated to “giving back to the Latinx community by creating a space of learning and love so that families are aware of how mental health is impacting our youth.”

DSST also collaborates with organizations to provide outside resources and culturally responsive mental health to our DSST families such as Servicios de La Raza, Focus Points Family Resource Center and Tepeyac Community Health Center.

Learn more about the Signs of Suicide and how to support conversations about Mental Health with Latinx families.