Lately I’ve been thinking that I need to go to a specialized therapy. One just for Mexican-American women. The way I think about things, the relationships I have, the way I raise my kids are all strongly influenced by being Latina. Yet, I often feel torn between two cultures.
And I’m not the only one who feels a disconnect. Last week I attended a talk at the California Endowment for the Arts on the topic of Latinas and mental health called, “The Hidden Cost of Being ‘American.’” The panel was moderated by Maria Hinojosa of “Latino USA” on NPR and “Need to Know” on PBS. It featured Author Denise Chavez and Professor Blanca Guzman. They talked about the precarious walk that Latinos take in this country in 2012.
Hinojosa said she had recently been at an underground library in Arizona. It’s underground because the state of Arizona banned the Tucson Unified School District from teaching Mexican-American Studies. She also said she had to think about whether she had her identification on her because this summer the Supreme Court upheld the part of the Arizona law SB1070 that allows police to ask people for their papers simply because they look like they could be in the country illegally (See video interview with Hinojosa below).
How can Latinos not question their place in society when there are these messages out there saying that they do not belong?
The talk was mainly about the mental health of Latinas. I was shocked to learn that Latino teens have a higher rate of suicide than any other group and it’s been that way for the past 20 years. Depression in Latina teens may be because of the bouncing around between two cultures. Girls can be influenced by their family and culture at home while they are still living with societal influences through magazines, the internet, and television.
But where do they go for help? Where does anyone go for help these days? Chavez gave some tips to battle depression that include getting out of bed and to not linger in the sorrow that life may have unfairly thrown at you. One issue for Latinas is that we have been raised to be too nice, to say yes too often, said Guzman.
Therapy and exercise are ways that Hinojosa has fought off depression. She has had an amazing career in which she was the first Latina correspondent on CNN and NPR the first Latina PBS news anchor. But with those firsts came responsibility to speak for others and tell stories.
And those stories can be heartbreaking. She talked about a case in Missouri where an undocumented Guatemalan woman lost custody of her son because a judge ruled she had abandoned her child when she was put in jail after an immigration raid. Another hearing in the case has been scheduled, but the child has been with his adoptive parents for years.
It is a difficult and promising time for Latinos. There is discrimination not seen before, but at the same time there is also a push to market products toward Latinos.
I know I also feel a great responsibility to tell these stories and to tell my own unique and not-so-unique Latina story, and to keep my culture alive in our family. I may not have my own specialized therapy, but at least I have that.
The video below is part of an interview I did with Maria Hinojosa at the PBS Summer Press Tour in Beverly Hills on July 22nd.