Editor’s note: During Hispanic Heritage Month, the Tyler Morning Telegraph is highlighting Hispanics making a difference in our community.
Nelida Medina, owner and therapist of Purple Crayon Counseling Services, is one of the two bilingual therapists in East Texas. Her services are an outlet for Hispanic families with a language barrier who want to seek mental health services for their children.
Medina started her counseling career as a clinical director for adults, then eventually transitioned to treating children.
Purple Crayon Counseling Services opened last year and assists low-income families. Medina said she tries to help out when it comes to private pay and that she takes Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Program and private insurance.
Medina believes mental health is important, especially in Hispanic households, where she thinks it sometimes is not taken seriously.
“We always think about our physical health but we don’t realize how much our mental health relates to our physical health,” she said. “When we’re talking about our Hispanic culture, things have to change. We’re not living in those times in Mexico or wherever you’re from in Latin America.”
With September being Suicide Prevention Month, Medina said there is a high suicide rate in East Texas and Hispanics often don’t seek help. The 2020 Texas Health and Human Services report states that East Texas has one of the highest suicide rates in the state with 16.2 deaths per 100,000 people.
While Medina is concerned about the Hispanic community, she has hope that people are realizing the importance of seeking assistance before it’s too late.
“The reason our parents come to the U.S is to give us a better life as children, but over here it interwinds,” Medina said. “In our Hispanic culture, we’re opening our eyes a little bit more when it comes to mental health.”
“When it comes to suicide, we don’t like talking about it because it’s scary. We don’t want to touch that topic because what if my kid is like, ‘Yes I want to die’? I see that a lot but they are asking for help not necessarily that they actually want to do it,” she added.
Medina said suicide is not always because of depression, but other factors, such as anxiety or bullying.
“With COVID-19, we’re seeing an increase of people who have committed suicide. It’s not because of depression but it’s because we’re living with pandemic effects. It triggers anxiety,” she said.
She said COVID-19 has taken a toll on children’s mental health, including guilt and the lack of socializing.
Medina said the guilt in children is a result of fearing social places, such as schools where the mask mandates are not enforced, which leads them to be scared of getting their family sick.
She has also seen cases where the children witness parents yelling at each other or seeing a parent battling alcoholism. Medina said alcoholism is a risk in the Hispanic community because alcohol is constantly a part of social gatherings and celebrations.
Medina also stressed the importance of paying attention when a child communicates their feelings.
“As a child, they believe everything is their fault. ‘Why didn’t you do this or this,’ instead of rewarding or being thanked. As Hispanic children, we’re taught with nagging like ‘Oh you’re depressed, go sweep the floor over there or go wash the dishes,’” she said.
Medina said parents need to acknowledge the change of behaviors when it comes to their children.
“Only you know your child, you should know what’s normal or what’s not. We have all these warning signs but we wait until someone finds out to address it,” she said.
Medina recommends parents use mental health services offered on school campuses, but most importantly seek help for the child if they observe a change of behavior.
She said it’s important to not only get help for the child but continue to follow up with counseling services.
“When the parent doesn’t follow up, it just makes that child think ‘nobody cares about me. They said they were going to get me help but nobody really didn’t. They don’t care about me because if they did then they would’ve continued the care they wanted for me,’” she said. “If you feel like something isn’t right with your child, follow your gut instinct. Seek help, because there’s help.”
Purple Crayon Counseling Services offers help to children of ages 4 to 18 and is located at 401 E. Front St. Building No. 1, Suite 227 in Tyler.