Focusing on my mental health has been the best decision I could have ever made for myself. By taking care of and healing parts of my mind, my life has flourished in every way possible. 

As a Latinx person, I have observed my community ignore mental health and therapy for as long as I can remember. If one happens to fall victim to depression, it’s nothing serious. It’s not a bodily injury that can stop you from working, so get back to work. You need to work to survive. You need to earn your own money, and wasting time on your thoughts and feelings is losing money as well as your dignity. 

But how true are these statements? Is it really better for someone to ignore what is going on emotionally in their lives? 

As a child, the only way I ever saw people relax or unwind (so when they weren’t working), was by drinking a cold beer and watching T.V. But I never saw them take time to figure out their thoughts or feelings – not out loud, at least. If the idea of sharing feelings or taking them seriously was ever brought up, the men would say, “Nah, that stuff is for women,” or “ Don’t be dramatic….just don’t think about it…don’t be so sensitive.”

Why do you need therapy if you’re fine? You have clothes, food, a roof over your head, and you go to school. You’re parents don’t abuse you, they love you. What do you have to be sad about? What for? What do you have to be stressed about, you don’t pay any bills?   

These are some of the statements, assumptions and questions my family would say to me whenever they’d see me angry or upset; the same questions my friends would receive from their own loved ones. They’d say I have no reason or right to feel the way I was feeling – that I was just a spoiled brat. 

But I know that bottling everything up inside and just trying to forget about it – doesn’t work. It only causes more problems down the line, such as mental illnesses. Another long-term effect of abusing one’s mental health is generational trauma, a very popular term these days repeatedly heard throughout social media and amongst my own friends and colleagues. 

A common form of generational trauma has been through the emotional negligence of a child’s feelings. I have learned that some of the reasons why a parent ignores their kids is because they themselves don’t know how to express their thoughts or feelings. Not only that, but they don’t know how to respect their child’s thoughts or feelings because it was a generational thing that happened to them as well. No one taught them how to do so, and they never learned. 

When so many people get the chance to learn, they don’t take it because they only focus on moving forward, doing what has to be done and not thinking – to survive. They say to themselves that they have other or better things to focus on, such as paying the bills or putting a roof over their children’s heads. Then again, there are also parents who, with low self-esteem, believe that their children don’t love them, so they accept the idea and do their best to stay out of their lives, thinking that they’ll mess up the child more by being involved. Those who have gone through enough pain and don’t know how to deal with it, avoid dealing with the emotions of their children in fear of taking on more pain than they can handle; living with their loved ones at arms length.

It’s always been that way in my family. The parent always gets to make the decision with no questions asked. They say, “You’re crazy. You’re not thinking straight. You’re being ridiculous. You don’t know what you’re talking about. That never happened. You’re so ungrateful.”

When one grows up with a family that doesn’t understand the importance of mental health, they are more at risk for mental illnesses and diseases as well as other problems that may last their whole life. If they are not taught what respect and love looks like, they will find themselves in abusive relationships. Or if they only find hurt and disappointment in their loved ones, to avoid getting hurt again, they detach themselves from any emotion and avoid relationships and commitments. Without a strong and supportive family, these individuals may end up insecure with low self-esteem, believing that they don’t deserve love, much less, respect. 

This is a lie. 

Since therapy is long-term, it improves your way of living and makes you stronger. Substances take the pain away temporarily and make you dependent and avoidant. And this is why I am a strong advocate for therapy especially for those who are most at risk for addictions. 

You don’t need to have serious problems to go to therapy. This is a misconception. If a problem may seem small to others, but it has an impact on your daily life, that is a big enough reason (and the only reason you need) to go to therapy. However, if one doesn’t feel comfortable enough with the idea of going to therapy, since not too many people I know like to be vulnerable with their emotions (especially within my own community – that I have seen), that is OK. It is important to live a peaceful life,  peace is necessary to live a long and healthy life. 

Mental health is more readily discussed in today’s generation. One can find commercials or announcements for therapy on YouTube or TikTok. BetterHelp is one of the largest platforms for online therapy. Regardless, if one does not have the desire or the resources necessary to get a therapist, there are other ways to take care of one’s mental health. 

For example, looking up on Pinterest or YouTube videos on the subject, such as “positive affirmations” or “journaling prompts” or even anything to do with healing and growing exercises can go a long way. There have been many books released on ways of better living. There are also podcasts that you can listen to throughout your day or as you fall asleep called, Despertando and Durmiendo podcast.

These podcasts help one to be honest with one’s emotions if one can’t afford the resources for a therapist. And again, in case you have difficulty being vulnerable with another person, journaling has been the greatest help I’ve been able to find. Begin with baby steps, but begin today, because the first step can help change your life; not only to improve your relationships, but also to obtain the strength necessary to move forward with any problem you may face.

Brenda Payan is a public relations major at California State University, Long Beach. She is the editor-in-chief of the first and only Spanish magazine in the city of Long Beach. She is a freelance writer...