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Martínez-Folger: “One of the biggest challenges in Ohio is the lack of health resources for Latinos”

By Federico Martínez, Special to La Prensa

Daniel Hinojosa, of Toledo, was 15 the first time he heard “the whispers”

“Dad, something’s wrong; I keep hearing things,” the scared teenager told his father as he tried to explain the voices that only he could hear speaking to him in his head.

His father, Raúl Hinojosa, not quite sure what to make of the situation, figured his son was having hearing difficulties. A trip to the doctor confirmed that Daniel’s problem wasn’t his hearing; it was something much more frightening.

Linda Alvarado-Arce

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 1 out of every 4 people living in the United States has a mental disorder of some kind. Even more discouraging: Less than 1 out every 11 Latinos diagnosed with mental illness ever contacts a mental health specialist, according to results from a 2011 survey on Drug Use and Health: Mental Health Findings conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

About 100 Toledo area residents, primarily Latinos, gathered at SS Peter & Paul Catholic Church, 738 South Saint Clair, Saturday, July 19 to learn more about mental illness and what community resources are available to help families and individuals address the illness.  Sharing Hope & Suicide Prevention was presented by Anita Martínez-Folger, a community/minority outreach coordinator for the Greater Toledo branch of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

One of the biggest challenges in Ohio is the lack of health resources for Latinos, Martínez-Folger said.

“How can Latinos seek mental health services if health providers don’t have therapists and counselors who are bilingual and familiar with the Latino culture?” said Martinez-Folger, noting that Northwest Ohio currently has no Spanish-speaking psychiatrists.

Special guest speaker Linda Alvarado-Arce, a board member for the Mental Health and Recovery Services Board of Lucas County, encouraged the Latino community to “come out and make our needs known. We don’t utilize our resources enough.”

Ms. Alvarado-Arce, director of the Board of Community Relations for the city of Toledo, vowed to “champion for more services for the Latino community,” through her positions with the city and mental health board, although she offered no specific solutions on how to address health problems facing the Latino community.

The need for bilingual and culturally sensitive therapists and counselors is especially important in the Latino community because of the high stigmatization that the term mental illness still carries in the community, Ms. Martínez-Folger said.

Many Latino families often refuse to acknowledge that a mental health issue exists, said Dolores Rodríguez, who recently retired from the Economic Opportunity Planning Association of Greater Toledo, Inc. (EOPA).  Rodriguez’s job was to help people find emergency medical, financial and housing assistance.

Latinos tend to rely on family, traditional healers or churches for help  during a health crisis, Ms. Rodríguez said. They often don’t understand such symptoms as depression or a physical ailment, believing such problems are only “temporary.”

Dolores Rodríguez

That was the case for the Hinojosa Family. Daniel Hinojosa, now 35-years-old, was 15 before he began exhibiting any noticeable signs of mental illness. He shared his story during Saturday’s event.

“It was winter and I walked to school that morning; but I didn’t realize school was closed because of the weather,” he recalled.  “I wasn’t sure what to do. I just stood there.

 “Then I saw some exhaust fumes from a car and a 7-foot guy come out of the car. I rubbed my eyes and, and it was my brother. That was the first time I had a hallucination. It kept getting worse, but I didn’t say anything.”

His parents initially were not familiar with mental illness. But as the signs grew worse, they initially tried to deny the problem.

“In our community especially we’re in denial; we never think it’s going to happen to our family,” said Raúl Hinojosa. “We’re worried that it’s a witch doctor’s spell; or that it’s just temporary. That’s where the church has to come in and help educate the public.

“It was really traumatic. For a while, every week he would receive a new package – a new accordion. He didn’t even know how to play the accordion. But he would believe that he was a great player and singer and record himself; he even sent copies to record companies.”

By the age of 19 Daniel Hinojosa was working as a greeter and “cart guy” at an “Andersons” store in Toledo.  One day during work the voices and music in his head became so overwhelming, he had a psychiatric breakdown.

It hasn’t been an easy recovery. It has taken years of therapy and several attempts by doctors to find the correct blend of medications to help Daniel Hinojosa stabilize his mood swings and suppress the voices and hallucinations. He was diagnosed with both a bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

“I’ve been doing so well since 2004,” Daniel Hinojosa said. “I’ve heard a voice or two, or experience a little paranoia, but it’s nothing I can’t handle.”

And much to his father, Raúl Hinojosa’s joy, his son has even become “quite an accomplished accordion player. He’s quite good.”


-          NAMI support groups are held 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on the 1st and 3rd Mondays of each month at SS Peter & Paul Catholic Church.

-          Art Support Group – 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., 2nd and 4th Mondays, SS Peter & Paul Catholic Church.

-          Family to Family Classes begin August 19, Mayore’s Senior Center.

For more information contact Anita Martínez-Folger at 419-243-1119 ext. 25, or [email protected].


Copyright © 1989 to 2014 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 07/29/14 19:42:36 -0700.




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