The situation with these families is so complicated that Juliao has to support her team of therapists, who at times find themselves feeling overwhelmed with not knowing what answer to give to young children who are concerned about the future of their families.
In the midst of these circumstances affecting so many Latino families, programs such as GAP facilitate access to services that are necessary in order to help identify and treat emotional distress and other mental health symptoms in children.
“That’s where our program plays a very important role, because maybe the father or mother doesn’t have the mental or emotional capability or the necessary transportation to bring their child to receive services. But because we have the services inside the school, the referral doesn’t have to come from the mother or father, but rather it comes from the counselor or teacher,” said Juliao.
Since 2014, when the program was implemented through the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, more than 80 children have benefitted from its services, according to CETPA data.
“We have counselors who go to the schools, and they are there full time, five days a week,” explained Bárbara Pérez, a CETPA employee who works with schools and educates about the initiative.
Pérez and Juliao hope to see the program extended. And despite the pervasive stigma that exists within the Hispanic community with regards to mental health, both experts say they have noticed that parents are more open to seeking help for their children and for themselves.
With the program in schools with predominantly Hispanic student populations counselors work closely with families who feel comfortable knowing that the services are close and in their language. An additional benefit is that the program is able to reach the parents as well.
“Don’t be afraid or ashamed to seek help. I know that in our cultures it’s very typical that what is discussed at home stays at home, or we go and speak to the priest,” said Juliao. “Parents know their children best. I always tell them: ‘I’m not the expert on your child, you are the expert on your child.’ And it’s important for them to know what changes they are seeing in their children.”
CONTINUED COVERAGE Each Saturday look for a feature story from our media partners at Mundo Hispanico that highlights an aspect of the Hispanic community. For a closer look at its content, go to www.mundohispanico.com or contact editors and reporters directly at 404-881-0441.