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Latino Daily News

Saturday November 13, 2010

Reducing the Stigma of Mental Illness in the Latino Population

Now in its fourth year, the Annual Latino Mental Health Conference, held on October 24, 2010 by the Naomi Ruth Cohen Institute for Mental Health Education at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, offered an afternoon at St. Nicholas Catholic Church in Evanston focused on easing the stresses and emotional issues related to immigration. The Conference, titled “How is immigration affecting my daily life?” was held entirely in Spanish and led by respected professionals with deep experience working on mental health issues within the Latino/a community.

Father Marco Mercado, director of Hispanic Catholics at the Archdiocese of Chicago, opened the Conference by noting that many members of the Hispanic community continue to experience shame and helplessness when they or a loved one is affected by mental illness. Fr. Mercado asked participants to forgo the myths and let go of the stigma of mental illness so that those who suffer can get the help and support they need.

Immigration undoubtedly brings significant challenges and stresses.

“Immigration is not a discrete event: it is a complex, transformational process affecting families and children,” said Dr. Hector Machabanski, a consulting psychologist with the Pediatric Developmental Center at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center. One of the presenters at the Conference, Machabanski is a clinical and school psychologist who has worked extensively with children, families and immigrants for more than 25 years.

Both Machabanski and co-presenter Marna Tovar, MS, CADC, a therapist who has worked with Hispanic populations at the Community Counseling Centers of Chicago for 19 years, explored positive ways of reflecting on the process of immigration and offered tools and techniques to manage these stressful changes. Participants then broke up into small groups to discuss the presentations and the information provided in handouts on coping with anxiety and depression.

Said Tovar, “This Conference gave the audience a joyful opportunity to recognize and celebrate their culture and nationality.  In my humble opinion, this was an amazing bonding moment.  Thank you for contributing to the Latino community’s increased awareness, skills, and pride.”

The mission of the Naomi Ruth Cohen Institute is to overcome the stigma of mental illness by promoting educational programs and by supporting organizations engaged in mental illness research, education, self-help, anti-discrimination and advocacy. In addition to the Latino Mental Health Conference and smaller educational projects, the Institute develops and underwrites a larger mental health conference each spring. The 2011 conference will focus on bipolar disorder, and will be held in Evanston, Illinois on June 5, 2011.

Dr. Nancy Curotto, the new director of the Institute and adjunct faculty in TCSPP’s Clinical Counseling program, has exciting plans for its future. “Together with The Chicago School, we will continue to expand the Institute’s vision and mission to reduce the stigma of mental illness and make a positive difference in the lives of those who are touched by it.”

For more information on the Naomi Ruth Cohen Institute at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, visit http://www.naomicoheninstitute.org/ or call 312.467.2552.