By Carmen Argueta, NAMI Program Coordinator and Spanish Programs Specialist
About a year ago I joined the NAMI Education, Training and Peer Support Center. I was thrilled at this opportunity, as I would be working to help our education programs grow, especially within the Latino community. I was familiar with NAMI’s education programs but had not experienced firsthand the truly life changing impact they had on people’s lives—something which was evidenced so clearly at our national training event this past October in St. Louis.
For the first time ever, we hosted an all-Spanish training for Conexión NAMI facilitators and De Familia a Familia teachers. Not only was this a milestone for NAMI, it also held special significance for me as a Latina. I was able to interact with the participants of both programs and was able to see them grow together as a group and individually in a very short period of time. They went from starting as strangers to on the road to becoming life-long friends—united in a common goal. I knew they would take something home from the training that would help their community, a community that has to bear the effects of a self-imposed stigma due to the nature of our culture. I could not help but feel hopeful and see such promise for the future.
Alongside these Spanish-language program trainings was the first NAMI Parents and Teachers as Allies Training of Trainers since 2008. It was fortuitous for me to be able to participate in this training and its surrounding events as I was able to engage in an event that I had heard so much about but had never been able to be directly involved in. Parents and Teachers as Allies is a tremendous program that helps individuals within school communities better understand the early warning signs of mental illness in children and adolescents and the most effective way to intervene so that each child’s specific needs can be met.
I was also involved in creating an educational video that is slated to be released in early 2012 and was also asked to talk about multicultural outreach on the last day of training. I spoke about outreach from personal experience and was so pleased to hear afterwards how well it was received. I had no idea how strongly it would resonate with the participants, who asked questions and saw practical uses for various cultural groups in their areas.
The training in St. Louis was an excellent event that I’m sure produced top notch facilitators, teachers and state trainers who will reach out and break down the barriers and stigma of mental illness to not only the Latino community but to so many others as well.