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Why I Teach Mental Health First Aid in Spanish

By the time I was 7 years old, I was a full-time translator and interpreter for my parents. I remember showing up to registration on my first day of school and seeing most of my classmates running around the cafeteria. I was so excited to meet them and make friends, but I quickly switched focus and sat with my mom along with some other parents. The few of us who were sitting were all doing the same thing; translating. I was 7 years old having to figure out school paperwork. Back home, my siblings and I could support each other, which was helpful as they were older and knew more English than I did in the 1st grade. My siblings and I quickly had to learn a lot about important documents, medical terms, and directions to help our parents navigate this world. Imagine being 10 years old and going with your mom to the doctor’s office and having the doctor speak through you. As a child, it is heartbreaking to see your parent navigate the English-speaking world understanding things at a limited capacity. The older I got the more I saw change happening around me - access to documents in other languages, doctors who spoke Spanish, translators at Parent Night. My community was being heard.

As we started our work with Cypress, I once again heard the outcries of my community. We were doing such amazing work for hundreds of people around us, providing workshops, resources, trainings, professional development – but all in English. My community was once again not being included in the important conversations. My team and I recognized this need, and we got to work. I was so excited to be able to provide Mental Health First Aid certification training in my native language and to people from my own community. For many Latinx communities, mental health is still a topic that is stigmatized. It is so fulfilling to know I can encourage these conversations and provide resources to people in my community. This is especially true with the way our society has made the topic of mental health much more accessible in general.

As we developed new content in Spanish, we quickly came to the realization that it wouldn’t be as simple as expected. It is so easy to find resources and websites for any type of support, in English. When it comes to other languages, it wasn’t just a call or click away. How can we normalize and destigmatize mental health when we don’t have these resources available for the second most spoken language in the United States? How can we help destigmatize and normalize mental health challenges when we can’t reach such a large population in this country? And it’s not just Spanish. We need more mental health resources translated into the diverse languages represented by our population. I know for a fact that if this is impacting the Spanish speaking community – it is impacting others as well.

Here at Cypress, we hear the need. We recognize the work that still needs to be done and we are working to improve our organization to provide support to as many people as we can. We continue to grow and learn as an organization, and I hope to see our society do the same. Language accessibility is one way we can make sure a child with immigrant parents can show up to school and play with the other kids - the way many of us never had the chance to.

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