La Mesa – How Latine Families Support Each Other, Despite Stigma
La mesa is where many sacred moments are shared for Spanish-speaking communities. It is where mamás sew their clothes together and where papás cook their famous ceviche. La mesa is where the loudest laughs are heard and where the hard conversations are had. It is the heart of our culture— where the family comes together.
In many Spanish-speaking communities, trauma traces through our mamás, papás, tíos, and tías. Before our loved ones learned to play with toys, they learned to survive. Others took on the role of mamá and papá before they had children of their own. Some crossed to El Norte before they reached elementary school. Our loved ones developed survival skills that left other needs – like mental wellness – unaddressed.
Latine/Hispanic people often focus on physical symptoms of mental health problems and are twice as likely to seek help with a mental health disorder from a primary care provider than a mental health specialist.
Mental health awareness is scarce in our households because elders were taught to avoid expressing their needs. This lack of outward dialogue often teaches young people to struggle in silence.
Suicide and mental health struggles are on the rise nationwide in Spanish-speaking communities – particularly for youth.
La mesa outlines the moments our loved ones show up despite not knowing how. Our mamás and papás do not use words like depresión or trastorno de ansiedad. Instead, they use la mesa to care for us when we are struggling. Mamá often says, “Usted puede, mija.” Sometimes papá offers a plate of carne asada, frijoles, and arroz. Other times, they pray silently. Our padres offer what they can, how they can. They do it together, en la mesa.
– Jennifer Méndez, Lines for Life Communications Intern