Last Fall, The Guidance Center was awarded a $1,578,807 grant to enhance trauma-informed care services for vulnerable and under-represented youth and mental health staff in response to the COVID19 global pandemic. A key focus on this program is to increase accessibility to mental health services through outreach, education and engagement workshops in the community. The goal of the workshops is to increase access to services, reduce stigmatization of seeking help and increase understanding of severe emotional disturbances in the communities in which we provide services.
For this week’s blog, we asked our parent partner, Wendy Aguilar, to share her experiences with outreach work in our community and leading the parent/caregiver workshops!
“I don’t have time for therapy!”
“My kids are not crazy!”
“My children would benefit from therapy but I’m scared. What will everyone say?”
Assisting the underserved population is not an easy task. In fact, it comes with its challenges. There is a lot of stigma around what mental health and wellness is. Unfortunately, that is something we hear while out in the community doing outreach. As community health workers, we see the hesitation, we hear the uncertainty in people’s voices, and the distrusting look with yet a glimpse of curiosity twinkling in their eyes. We counter that fear and plant a seed of hope and water their concerns away while we watch them perk up when all their questions have been answered.
Oftentimes, we have people seeking information for a loved one, a family friend, or a concerned aunt whose 8-year-old nieces’ father passed away suddenly while in the midst of their home being in foreclosure; or a mother who is on the brink of tears in need of support for her 7-year-old child who is suffering from anxiety and depression; or the 13-year-old teen who came up to me and asked if she could have a flyer because she was really struggling with her mental health since her mother passed from COVID-19 complications. This is real; this is what our communities are going through. A lot of the time we help spread the word, but the real reward is when we actually make a difference in someone’s day. We get exposed to these things and it propels us to reach more or as many individuals as we can. We have provided workshops for the community on various mental health topics and we have attended outreach events. We (Lunachan, Arlene, and myself) think it is extremely important.
Lunachan Tith covers Cambodia town in Long Beach and she says, “It is important for me to let the Cambodian people know what The Guidance Center’s mission and goals are. What the Cambodian people have experienced is a lot of trauma and the years 1975-1979 are a very sensitive topic for them. We immigrated as refugees and I want to remind the Cambodian community that there is hope.”
Arlene Escobar covers Sector 6 and she expressed, “Doing outreach is an opportunity for me to build community and raise awareness on mental health and wellness. It also allows me to create a space for the people in our community to come together and share their experiences. Through this work, we can help break the stigma that surrounds mental health and we can help build a community that is supportive, empathetic and nonjudgmental around the topic of mental health.”
I,cover Sector 8. I am grateful that I am able to get involved, listen, and guide. I see courage within the community; I see resilience. I see courage in a low voice of a shy kid asking how the program works and how they sign up. Outreach works, outreach makes a difference. I have seen it and it brings me so much joy and fulfillment!
“These workshops provide access for people that don’t necessarily know what’s out there. We are here to change people’s perceptions and what these organizations can do for the community. Workshops could be used as preventative work. Kids should not get worse with anxiety or depression etc., especially in minority groups” – Irving Martinez, LCSW
I wholeheartedly agree with my team, with the mission of The Guidance Center and I am extremely grateful that I am a part of the change we want to see.
“The secret to change is to focus all your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”