New program focuses on Latino mental health

January 13, 2012
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Sociedad Latina is investing a recently-won $50,000 grant into expanded mental health and wellness programming for Latino youths and families.

The organization is the first winner of the new $50,000 William L. Boyan award and grant, presented by Children’s Hospital Boston.

“We’re very honored. We are a leader in working with children about health. It really opens up a huge opportunity for us,” Sociedad Latina Executive Director Alexandra Oliver-Dávila told the Gazette.

Sociedad Latina has already hired a licensed social worker who will oversee new social work interns. This team will spend one-on-one time with all of the organization’s “youth leaders,” aged 14 to 21.

“We’ve been doing that anyway, but we haven’t been able to work with all our youths,” Oliver-Dávila said. “We’ll expand to include our middle-school-age youths.”

The social work team will check in with the youths for academic development, professional goals and any other big issues that the youths might need help with. The team will then assist as much as they can—from finding academic help to even assisting in finding a shelter or other safe space for homeless or threatened children.

“We’ll be able to flag things as they’re happening, not six months after the fact,” Oliver-Dávila said.

Research shows higher rates of depression and suicide among Latino youths, a Sociedad Latina press release stated. Latino youths experience more stress due to inequality, poverty and the pressures they face to adopt the values of a new culture, it said.

Sociedad Latina will also present monthly wellness workshops to Latino families in English and Spanish, covering topics like nutrition, fitness, recognizing signs of depression in family members, “all those kinds of things,” Oliver-Dávila said.

“We want to be able to do the best possible job on this pilot program. We want to be able to show this to other organizations [as an example],” Oliver-Dávila said.

Sociedad Latina can be reached at 617-442-4299 and sociedadlatina.org.

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