Mental Illness in P.O.C Households

Photo by Maria Espichan

Hanna Da’mes, Staff Writer |

On February 16, the Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority hosted a discussion-based workshop about mental health in Fitzelle Hall. The Latin Sorority invited guest speaker Amy Quichiz to lead the workshop.

Quichiz is a recent graduate from Syracuse University with a Bachelors degree in Women’s and Gender Studies and Sociology. She currently works at Planned Parenthood as an Outreach and Education Specialist. Quichiz has found a purpose in spreading awareness about mental health, specifically for brown, queer Latinas. She works as a Contributing Writer for BoldLatina, a blog for politics, self care, lifestyle, education, and identity for all members of the Latina community.

With a warm, welcoming smile, Quichiz sat on a desk in front of a PowerPoint titled, “Erasure of Mental Disabilities in a POC Household.” She started the workshop by going around the room, asking participants for theirnames, major, and something they love to do. She asked what the attendents  would like to get out of the workshop, and many responded with hopes to learn more about how to have more productive conversations about mental health with their family members.

One student noted how Latinx cultures can often contribute to the idea that the subject of mental health is “taboo.” Others remarked how mental illness can make the family look bad, so there is a sense of shame in speaking about depression, anxiety, or any other non-physical illnesses. There is also a feeling of guilt that comes with it; many students asked variants of this rhetorical question, “If my parents can cross the border and almost die, make a new life with the hope for a better future, and overcome all of the struggles associated with being a Latinx immigrant, who am I to be depressed?”

Amy Quichiz launched into a very personal story about her own mental health past, including her journey of healing, along with the personal accounts of the students. Through various anecdotes and comments, a detailed picture was painted of the many different reasons mental illness is not discussed often in homes for people of color, specifically Latinx culture.

The discussion quickly turned to the harmful effects of hyper-masculinity and how it negatively impacts not only women, but also men. From a young age, men are expected to be less sensitive and to internalize their emotions for fear of being associated with anything “girly.” Anxiety and depression are often considered feminine problems. If mental illnesses are only for women

and also only for white people, where does that leave men of color? Masculinity is perhaps the most destructive stereotype to men of color.

During the discussion, a student brought up the tendency for men in Latinx households to turn to alcoholism in order to cope with their negative feelings. Quichiz brought up how historically, women of color (particularly black women) would come together to tell stories and discuss their daily problems and feelings. There was a sense of companionship of “sisterhood” that men of color, often, still do not have. This lack of community on a personal level leaves these sons, brothers, and fathers to their own devices. Alcoholism is seen as normal and unproblematic in Latinx cultures, a student noted sadly.

Although much of the discussion was the statement of unfortunate truths about the rigidity of culture and the unwillingness of parents of color to speak freely about mental health, guest speaker Amy Quichiz brought together everything that had been discussed and gave us solutions. Quichiz spoke about how she helped her own parents be more comfortable with the subject of not only her mental health, but of theirs as well.

“Open up the door to learn about each other’s traumas,” Quichiz urged. This was one piece of advice she had for the attendees, to help them break  down barriers and start conversations about mental health.

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