Mental Illness Awareness Week: Manos Abiertas

Wednesday, October 07, 2020

“I walked into therapy feeling broken, alone, and defeated. Today, in my last therapy session, I can say that I walk with my head held high, I feel confident, strong and no longer reflect the person who walked into services. I have the skills to manage my mental health and have developed the motivation to be happy with my life.”


“Entré en terapia sintiéndome quebrada, sola y derrotada. Hoy, en mi última sesión de terapia, puedo decir que camino con la cabeza en alto, me siento confiada, fuerte y ya no reflejo a la persona que entró en los servicios. Tengo las habilidades para manejar mi salud mental y he desarrollado la motivación para ser feliz con mi vida.

As Mental Illness Awareness Week unfolds, we want to highlight the support and services that Spanish-speaking community members can access at Central City Concern’s Puentes program. Puentes provides mental health services, recovery support and wraparound case management to nearly 300 people each year, many of them first-generation immigrants to the United States.

For non-English speakers or recent immigrants, barriers to care are high — language barriers, legal documentation status, employment status, and prejudice and discrimination can all negatively impact people’s access to care. During the COVID-19 pandemic, those barriers have grown even more — and so have anxiety, depression, trauma and other mental health challenges. At Puentes, the team acts as a bridge to the care people need, regardless of insurance.

But it’s not just structural barriers that keep people in the Latinx community from getting help for a mental illness. Stigmas around mental illness can also make people reluctant to seek care.

Mental health counselor Cesar Ramirez knows that COVID-19 is presenting increased challenges for his clients. “They’re thinking, ‘I can’t get sick: my daughter won’t eat.’” He works with clients on staying centered in the moment and focusing on what they can control, so they don’t get stuck in fear.

“There’s a taboo. People say it’s ‘algo para locos’ – just for crazy people,” said Cesar Ramirez, a mental health counselor at Puentes. Often, people avoid mental health services until they are in crisis.

The team at Puentes works together to build lasting relationships and provide personalized support, so that clients don’t have to be in a dire state before they get help. They provide counseling, recovery support and intensive case management to connect people to housing, health care and other resources. And Puentes team members are bilingual and bicultural, grounding their work in a deep understanding of and respect for their clients’ backgrounds.

“When someone has the strength and courage to come in for help, we want them to know: You are in a safe space. This is your casa. We welcome them with manos abiertas — open arms,” said Cesar.

The bicultural, bilingual Puentes team provides culturally-informed care and support to their Latinx clients. From left: Daniel Garcia, Director of Latino Services; Albert Parramon, Clinical Supervisor; Maide Almeda, Alcohol & Drug Counselor; Cesar Ramirez, Mental Health Provider; Ricardo Verdeguez, Alcohol & Drug Counselor; and Jesus Mendoza, Case Manager. (Not pictured: Nuvia Chavez-Tellez, Ivette Iparraguirre, Marysol Jimenez, Gabriela Lule and Cindy Ross.)

And Puentes is still providing services, despite the ongoing pandemic. The team offers individual and group counseling sessions, in addition to recovery support, online and over the phone. New clients are welcome, and the team has had great success with moving individual and group counseling sessions to the phone or online.

“We want people to know, ‘Si se puede.’ Yes, you can. You can find help. There is light at the end of the tunnel: it’s okay to ask for help. Sometimes you need support from community. And we are part of your community, too,” said Albert Parramon, Puentes Clinical Supervisor and a licensed mental health and addiction counselor.

To connect with Puentes, call 503-546-9975 or visit them online for more information.

Ahora mas que nunca necesitamos mas ayuda o apoyo profesional. Puentes es un programa que ofrece servicios de recuperación para las adicciones y de consejería de salud mental para usted o algún ser querido que lo necesite. 

¡Ofrecemos varios tipos de tratamiento y apoyo, de acuerdo con sus necesidades y en suidioma! Para mas información, por favor comuníquese con nosotros. Llámenos al 503-546-9975. ¡Gracias!