Goal: To reduce stress and isolation experienced by Latino immigrants. Read blog posts.
- To establish community-based support groups for Latino immigrants that provide a safe place to share experiences, identify sources of strength, and promote culturally-appropriate approaches for stress reduction
- Weekly meetings alternating men and women
- 5:30-7 p.m. with dinner and child supervision
- Walk in, free participation
- Recruited 12 bilingual JHU psychiatrists and psychotherapists to moderate sessions
- Secured free space at Gallery Church
- Developed curriculum based on PATH and Circles programs
- Identifying students to supervise children
- Children’s curriculum in progress
- To conduct a 6-month evaluation of Testimonios to justify continuation and identify areas of improvement based on participant and moderator feedback
- Established process indicators
- Developing satisfaction and feedback survey
What is Testimonios?
In Spanish, “testimonio” means to declare and affirm. We are establishing support groups (called Testimonios) for Latino immigrants in Baltimore experiencing stress. During Testimonios group meetings, which will be moderated by a psychiatrist and psychotherapist, participants will describe their immigration experiences, and put a voice to their strengths and stressors. Our goal is to reduce stress and improve wellness among Latino immigrants by providing a safe place to share experiences and to promote culturally-appropriate approaches to stress reduction.
Demographic changes have outpaced Baltimore´s capacity to provide culturally and linguistically competent services to a rapidly growing Latino immigrant community. Mental health services are particularly difficult to access due to lack of insurance, and a scarcity of Spanish-proficient mental health providers. Moreover, stressors associated with the migration experience place immigrants at high risk for chronic anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and substance abuse. In addition to economic hardship (which is often the inciting factor leading to migration), immigrants face isolation, separation from family and friends, discrimination due to ethnicity and legal status, and violence (in their country of origin, during transit to the U.S., and in Baltimore). In medicine clinics that serve Latino immigrants (such as La Esperanza Center free clinic and EBMC), Latinos often present with psychosomatic complaints that lead to costly and unrevealing medical evaluations that do not address the root of their symptoms, which are often related to stress.
Through Testimonios we want to capitalize on the resilience of Latino migrants who, despite countless obstacles, have settled in Baltimore. Utilizing personal storytelling, Testimonios participants will discuss challenges and opportunities, and in particular, highlight personal and community strengths that can empower them to affect change. Discussions will be facilitated by mental health professionals who will help participants identify their sources of strength and stress. The sessions will be educational experiences focused on improving access to a new “vocabulary of wellness” and diminishing isolation
Participation: Any Latino immigrant ≥ 18 years of age who is experiencing stress can participate in Testimonios. Testimonios meetings will be held separately for men and women. Participation will be on a walk-in basis and can occur at any time during the calendar year. We anticipate that some participants will come regularly, while others may join meetings ad hoc. Sessions will be conducted in Spanish.
Marketing and referrals: Participants can self-refer, or be referred by a service provider. Pamphlets and posters advertising Testimonios will be posted at various community sites (including clinics, churches, schools, libraries, stores and restaurants). In addition, we will inform primary care clinics who serve a large number of Latinos (such as Bayview Pediatrics and Ob/Gyn Clinics, East Baltimore Medical Clinic, Baltimore Medical Systems, La Esperanza Center, and the Baltimore City Health Department Clinics). Word-of-mouth referrals will be encouraged.
Supervision: Each Testimonios meeting will be moderated by a licensed psychiatrist and a psychotherapist from JHU fluent in Spanish who will volunteer to participate in 1 session per month. Approval from Department Chiefs will be required to moderate Testimonios meetings and to ensure medical liability coverage. Moderators will not engage in a patient/doctor relationship and as such, will not be providing psychotherapy or providing diagnoses. If a moderator decides that a Testimonios participant needs individual psychiatric care, he/she will make the appropriate referral for mental health services. We anticipate that many participants will be eligible for The Access Program (TAP), which will facilitate referral to JHU psychiatric clinics if necessary. A list of faculty and clinical staff who have agreed to volunteer on a monthly basis is provided at the end of this document.
Time: Weekly from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., alternating groups for men and women
Location: Gallery Church, 3115 Eastern Avenue(at Ellwood and Eastern).
Fee: Participation will be free. Dinner will be provided to participants, moderators, and their children.
Child supervision: Participants can bring their own children to Testimonios sessions. Children will be supervised by Bienestar students and volunteers in an adjacent room. They will participate in structured activities (e.g. homework groups, story time, arts and crafts) and be provided a simple meal. This program would be covered under the JHU policy for Safety of Children in University Programs. Students, faculty or staff working with children will have to undergo additional training, contact centrosol [at] jhmi.edu for additional information.