It’s hard to fit into a mold when you can’t identify it.
Growing up as a Mexican American in San Diego gave me an interesting set of struggles. I often felt I was never American enough here, but I was never Mexican enough when I went there. I was self-conscious of having an accent in both languages – not truly knowing if English or Spanish was my primary language. I couldn’t roll my R’s en español and had difficulty differentiating between the “sh” and “ch” sounds well into my teenage years, and I had cousins who referred to me as the “white boy” because I primarily spoke English. Even in sports, I enjoyed watching the English Premier League over Liga Mexicana but was a fierce Mexican national soccer team supporter.
Growing up three exits from the US-Mexico border was like standing at the edge of the shore while a wave was retreating back to the ocean. Your body feels like your legs are pulling you back to the infinite. That’s how I feel about being a Mexican American. My feet are firmly planted on this soil, but my heart beats to La Bamba.
Today, I am writing as a proud Mexican American cofounder of Soluna Wellness. We are an outpatient mental health facility challenging all stereotypes and traditional mental health methods. Soluna Wellness is for the people of the sun and the Zoot Suit Riots, and the immigrants and children of immigrants who celebrate the Fourth of July as our own tradition. We challenge society’s approach to mental health, challenge how we heal, challenge machismo, and challenge the status quo.
Sometimes our approach looks different because we find community through creativity. We have found healing through the low-rider, import car, tattoo, and graffiti communities. We have found growth in learning about our cultures and diversity. Whether you’re just now picking up a paintbrush, a returning artist, or a Diego Rivera or Frida Kahlo, we are all able to create community through art. It’s all about being vulnerable and being of service to others. We have found that this happens organically in our classes, with each having its own culture. Our creative writing class is for storytellers, and we hand-pick songs to help us identify who we are and how we relate to certain emotions.
Soluna Wellness is a challenge to myself, our clients, and how we view the healing journey as a whole. But, we will continue reaching for higher branches, even if we don’t fully understand our roots. Mexican Americans have a unique experience, and together as a community we can work together to promote better mental health.
This Hispanic Heritage Month, I am reminded of the importance of culture, community, connection, and creativity – our core values at Soluna Wellness. I am reminded of the ways that our communities have taken care of ourselves and each other, long before systems of oppression gave us cookie-cutter treatment plans that tied each person’s worth to numbers on a paper and behavior plans they did or did not follow through with. At Soluna Wellness, we break the mold of care in order to remind ourselves that our healing is deeply tied to each other, to our whole selves, and to those who came before us.
If you need support for your mental health and the typical treatment centers don’t feel right to you, remember that it is okay to explore your options. Get curious about what is out there and what treatment could look like for you. Know that while therapy and medication are helpful for many, there are both alternatives and supplemental methods of healing that can support your journey in whatever way you need.
If you are a provider in this field, my ask is that you get curious, too. Take the time to learn about various forms of healing that may not be as widely known. Consider the unique needs of the populations you serve. Get creative, get curious about what else is out there that could support healing. Consider whether clients feel represented by the staff they work with or the content that is being shared. Consider whether their whole self is being supported, or if they have to shut off different parts in order to fit into the clinician’s expectations of care.
Remember, the possibilities for healing are endless. We just have to give ourselves permission to explore those options, and for those of us who are providers, we have to be willing to take risks to break the mold.
For the Spanish-speaking community, find MHA resources here.
Antonio Hernandez is the CEO of Soluna Wellness.
The views and opinions expressed in this blog solely belong to the author, and external content does not necessarily reflect the views of Mental Health America.
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