CTLN Opinion+: Luis B. Perez

President and CEO of Mental Health Connecticut on the importance of self-care tools

As important as our physical health is, our mental health is just as important. This month is Mental Health Awareness Month and CTLN is doing its part in destigmatizing and bringing awareness to mental health in the Latino community. 

After a global pandemic, natural disasters, and an insurrection, people across the country are experiencing burnout. We have been through a lot and to push aside or brush off the trauma that we have experienced is unhealthy. Emotions like anger, sadness, and shock are not a sign of weakness. Being vulnerable and addressing your mental health is a sign of strength. 

In the Latino community, there is a stigma in receiving care. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, common mental health conditions in the Latino community are anxiety disorders, major depression, post-traumatic stress disorders, and substance abuse. The same studies showed only 33% of our community seek treatment. 

The reluctance to seek treatment is in part to insurance coverage in our healthcare system but also to the stigma of mental health in our community. Talking about negative emotions is not encouraged in our culture. As a result, the negative perception of mental illness has kept Latinos from speaking about their problems.

This week, we conversed with Luis B. Perez, the President and CEO of Mental Health Connecticut, an outpatient mental health clinic focused on supporting those with lived experiences in their recovery. The organization also advocates for mental health equity in the health care system at the state and local levels.

Mental Health Connecticut is promoting 31 Days of Wellness throughout the month, hosting virtual workshops and highlighting the importance of self-care tools like journaling, reading, and nutrition.

Self-care is essential to maintaining good mental health. We can’t always be busy. We must take time to reflect, self analyze, and relax. 

In addressing mental health in our community the biggest change has to be how we talk about mental health. Perez encouraged intentional and encouraging conversation about self-care and treatment with family members and friends.

Resources mentioned in the video: 

Mental Health Awareness Month – May is Mental Health Awareness Month and Mental Health Connecticut (MHC) is recognizing and honoring this occasion with #31DaysofWellness (www.mhconn.org/31days) a month-long campaign where we spread awareness and raise funds for MHC@Home Fund. Details on the campaign can be found at the above link. You can also view fundraising progress at www.mhconn.org/31k.

MHC’s national affiliate Mental Health America wrote a piece about “Burn out” – https://www.mhanational.org/blog/engaged-employees-are-experiencing-burnout

MHC is the recipient of the Platinum Bell Seal for Workplace Mental Health, a certification program to recognize employers who are committed to creating mentally healthy workplaces. You can learn more about this program here – https://www.mhconn.org/blog/mental-health-connecticut-awarded-highest-rank-platinum-for-mental-health-americas-bell-seal-for-workplace-mental-health/ and https://www.mhanational.org/bestemployers.

Mental health during a pandemic – Watch a recorded workshop “Finding Solid Ground” during the Coronavirus pandemic. https://youtu.be/i-sCfCw5T7s.  

The importance of mental health in the Latino community – Mental Health America has excellent statistics and resources on Latinx Mental Health https://www.mhanational.org/issues/latinxhispanic-communities-and-mental-health

Mental Health Connecticut’s mission – MHC’s mission is to partner with individuals, families, and communities to create environments that support long-term health and wellness. Learn more about MHC at https://www.mhconn.org/about-us/

Mental Health America also data on mental health outcomes of communities of color compared to their white counterparts: https://www.mhanational.org/bipoc-mental-health

Legislative priorities for Mental Health Connecticut – https://www.mhconn.org/advocacy/legislative-updates/

Preventative care for mental health – MHC joins with Mental Health America in promoting B4Stage4. Mental Health America states, “When we think about cancer, heart disease, or diabetes, we don’t wait years to treat them. We start way before Stage 4. We begin with prevention. And when people are in the first stage of those diseases and have a persistent cough, high blood pressure, or high blood sugar, we try immediately to reverse these symptoms.” You can learn more about B4Stage4 at https://www.mhconn.org/education/b4stage4/

In-person vs digital care – MHC, like many others, had to transition how they delivered services since the pandemic hit in March 2020. MHC transitioned from mostly in-person care to 75% virtual overnight. Many of these stories can be found in the MHC digital Year in Review at https://www.mhconn.org/yearinreview/  


Cover Photo Credit: CT Public Radio

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