14 de octubre de 2019
Hispanic World

New York hairdressers look after Latino community's mental health

By Ruth E. Hernandez Beltran

 A student hairdresser clips a customer's eyebrows on Sept. 9, 2019, in New York, where hairdressers are becoming experts at recognizing signs of mental health problems and substance abuse in the Latino community, and then providing help for their customers. EFE-EPA/Miguel Rajmil

A student hairdresser clips a customer's eyebrows on Sept. 9, 2019, in New York, where hairdressers are becoming experts at recognizing signs of mental health problems and substance abuse in the Latino community, and then providing help for their customers. EFE-EPA/Miguel Rajmil

By Ruth E. Hernandez Beltran

New York, Sep 16 (EFE).- New York hairdressers are becoming experts at recognizing signs of mental health problems and substance abuse in the Latino community, and then providing help for their customers, who generally feel they can confide in their stylists.

Amid the noise of hair dryers and the typical bustle of a beauty salon, customers talk about their good times, family or marriage problems, fashion, sports, and even showbiz with their very friendly and understanding stylists.

But in general, they don't talk about their psychological or substance-abuse problems. Those are not subjects of a normal conversation, because "they are kept all in the family," making medical attention more difficult, EFE was told by Rafael Pabon, one of the instructors in the Mental Health First Aid project of the New York City Health and Mental Hygiene Department (DOHMH), which was launched in 2015 in the Big Apple and now exists around the country.

"Latinos tend to handle those problems at home. It's the idea of not wanting to say openly that 'I'm not well, I have a mental health problem,' which makes it more difficult to spot those problems," the Puerto Rican educator said.

He added that in the case of undocumented immigrants, "not knowing what's going to happen tomorrow" causes them great emotional stress.

According to New York health data, a higher percentage of Hispanics have a higher rate of depression, some 12 percent, compared with 8 percent of white New Yorkers.

More of the latter, however, receive treatment for that problem (58 percent), compared with just 39 percent of diagnosed Latinos, according to the Health and Mental Hygiene Department, which began the Tailored Engagement of Latinos project that specifically deals with the stigma of mental health in that community.

The project identifies places popular with Latinos and trains professionals in different areas of this community to deal with any mental health problems that turn up, the Colombian Marta Hernandez, who is in charge of the Latino initiative, said.

"There might be access to healthcare, but if there's a stigma (about mental health), that will keep people from seeking help, from saying what they feel, from emerging from the cycle of violence, from depending on alcohol or any other addiction," which makes employing the right strategies absolutely necessary, she said.

For that reason, the Health and Mental Hygiene Department has found allies in soccer teams and beauty salons. It has trained 20 soccer coaches and now, for the first time in New York, 70 hairdressing students, to recognize signs of mental illness and addiction, so they'll be ready to provide help.

Tailored Engagement of Latinos has associated with Mental Health First Aid, which teaches people in an eight-hour course how to recognize depression, anxiety, psychosis, substance abuse, masochism, panic attacks and a tendency toward suicide, and how to make the right approach so they talk about it.

The goal of Mental Health First Aid is to train 250,000 people including 10,000 Latinos within five years to recognize the problems and provide the necessary aid. EFE rh/cd

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