Out of the millions of adults and youth who experience mental illness, less than half seek treatment. Peer support advocates in Central Virginia are hoping to see those numbers go up, especially for a growing population in need - the Latino community. For Virginia Currents, Catherine Komp has more.
A small group gathers around a long table at Friends 4 Recovery in North Chesterfield. They’re here for conversational Spanish with the Center’s Hispanic Liaison, Guillermina (Mina) Padilla. While the class learns short phrases and today’s featured vocabulary, fruit and breakfast items, there are other benefits too, says the Center’s Executive Director Larry Almarode.
Larry Almarode: The first is actually empowerment: the ability of folks who come from an environment or have suffered from conditions where they didn’t feel like they could do anything, that learn a new language. So it’s a very empowering thing, that I can do this. Then, it also brings the two populations closer together.
Friends 4 Recovery knows there’s a need within Virginia’s growing Latino community for the peer run support services they offer. Almarode says peer support played a critical role in his own recovery.
Almarode: Basically the care I had gotten in the past was a professional to client relationship or power differential is the way we refer to it, where I didn’t feel I had a lot of say in my treatment. What I liked about peer support is that I didn’t feel alone, I met people who I could relate to, who understood my experiences and who were doing well.
A social worker originally from Honduras, Mina Padilla also first got involved with the Center as a member, when she was going through a difficult time after her husband’s death.
Padilla: Peer support is not clinical treatment, it is more a relationship between friends and everybody is in the same situation and they can understand you really, really good, and you feel really confident, you feel respectful. It is a really nice experience, yes.
Padilla worked with several dozen Spanish-speaking residents last year, but attendance has dropped. She and Almarode are working to expand outreach and participation. They just started a weekly Spanish-language peer support group.
Almarode: With Hispanic services, one of our goals is to be able to offer the amount of services we have for the English folks. We have a large facility and there’s room for everybody.
Some of those services include workshops in mindfulness and meditation, art and music, and computer skills. It’s all free of cost and the members decide each month what new workshops to pursue. Friends 4 Recovery also hopes to add bilingual classes led by Spanish-speaking peers. Catherine Komp, WCVE News.