Generations of Latinx people in the United States have faced discrimination, racism, and many other sorts of oppression. Although these are ongoing injustices, the COVID-19 pandemic and the national movement for Black lives have raised awareness of the many issues facing historically marginalized communities. This last year at Antioch, the Clinical Mental Health Programs in Seattle and New England have engaged in conversations specifically about how best to support Latinx children and families enduring the challenges of these times. These conversations have evolved into an initiative that is opening just this fall: the Latinx Mental Health & Social Justice Institute.
The institute is co-founded and co-directed by Mariaimeé Gonzalez of Seattle (pictured, above) and Syntia Santos Dietz of New England (below) with an executive board that also includes Douglas Valdez as institute coordinator and Cathy Lounsbury as advisor. Gonzalez and Santos Dietz are both members of the Latinx community and serve as faculty here at Antioch University. They are enthusiastic about this new endeavor. “The pandemic has made clear the disparities, lack of resources, and disadvantages for our communities,” says Santos Dietz. “We believe that it is our responsibility to contribute to the wellbeing of historically marginalized populations such as the Latinx community.”
The main goal of the Institute is to elevate culturally responsive mental healthcare for Latinx people across the country. Representation is fundamental to this mission. “We need more Latinx professionals, bilingual-trained counselors and supervisors,” says Santos Dietz. “We need resources and access to training and continuing education. I dream of a world where all voices can be heard and have a place at the table where big decisions happen.” She says that they will be working for changes “in access, policies, regulations, opportunities, and education for our community.” Santos Dietz and Gonzalez are currently reaching out to possible partner institutions and organizations that are already doing work related to the wellbeing and mental health in Latinx communities.
In addition to developing programs and services that will better serve the Latinx community, the founders hope the Latinx Institute for Mental Health & Social Justice can provide opportunities for learning within the community across existing cultural lines. While the diversity within Latinx people is vast, this presents many opportunities to learn about and from others who might have very different backgrounds. This institute promises to be a locus for these meaningful connections—and a space that will serve to uplift the community as a whole.
To learn about The LatinX Mental Health and Social Justice Institute visit news.antioch.edu/latinx-institute.