Talking about our mental health is difficult, but important. | Monterey County NOW Introduction

Tajha Chappellet-Lanier here, thinking about mental health care and talk about mental health.

This is one of the most difficult topics to tackle (or write!), partly because our own mental experience is such an internal thing, and partly because of the cultural stigma (open or internalized) that still exists around it.

I am a firm believer, but not always such a good practitioner– that we would all be better off if we talked about our various internal experiences. I think that with practice we would learn a new and better language to describe how we feel, we would learn that we are not alone, and we would choose tools to deal with any challenges that might come our way. For individuals, there are ways to put this into practice with trusted friends or family members. But for groups of people, the discussion can take place in a larger forum.

I think about all this because tomorrow The Village Project, a Seaside association which provides free services to underserved local communities, will relaunch its monthly public forums on mental health among underserved communities. The series, which debuted in 2018, has been discontinued due to the pandemic. But now, 18 months later, it’s back, with plenty to discuss.

This first edition will focus on the Latino community, and more specifically how the pandemic impacted the mental health of this community. The two-hour discussion will feature an incredibly skilled panel, including Jesse Herrera, a registered clinical social worker and director of retired Monterey County Ethnic Behavioral Health Services; Erika Cadenas, marriage and family therapist; Adriana Melgoza, director of organization and education at the Center for Community Advocacy in Salinas; and Valerie Pacheco, Certified Professional Counselor at the Humanidad Therapy and Education Center in Santa Rosa. Together, these panelists will present a vision on how to move forward towards healing and recovery. It is an important topic of discussion, especially in the Latino community, which has been hit hard by the cases and deaths of Covid-19.

The pandemic has brought to light the ‘incredible’ health care disparities faced by black and brown communities, Village Project co-founder Mel Mason said. He imagines that in addition to discussing personal healing, the panelists will talk about how to strive for better care in the future. “This is an opportunity for us to galvanize a movement,” he said.

The forum is part of the Lucille Hralima mental health education series, named in memory of The Village Project’s first licensure-seeking intern who formed with the organization in 2009. After being diagnosed with bipolar disorder as a teenager, Hralima became a social worker for the Monterey County Department of Social Services and worked as an advocate for mental health education and ending the stigma surrounding mental health care. She was killed in a car crash in 2018 and The Village Project continues its dedication to this cause with its popular education series.

If you want to attend and learn from these experts, the event is free and open to everyone.. It takes place from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, September 18 at 1069 Broadway Ave. at Seaside. And that’s just the start: In the coming months, The Village Project plans to host discussions focused on LGBTQ +, Indigenous / Indigenous, African American, and Asian / Pacific Islander communities. Stay tuned for more details on these.

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