How Parents at New Academy Canoga Park are working Towards Building Better Mental Health Practices

I met NACP’s parent liaison, Vanessa, last year when I learned about the school. She deeply cares about spreading resources to students and their families and I appreciated this because, as a promotora, I love sharing knowledge with the community. She invited me to give a series of workshops at the beginning of 2020. Since then, I’ve led several workshops for the parents at NACP on mental health and the stigma behind it. A lot of times we think that mental illness isn’t something that can happen to us. But at any age, time, or circumstance, we can struggle with mental health. Helping parents understand this means empowering them to live a life with better mental health practices. 

Mental health includes three important pillars: mental health, physical health, and spiritual health. Many times we forget these three factors. We may only talk about physical health and forget about our emotional well-being or we talk about the spiritual and forget about the body. Through my workshops, I observed the needs of each parent, keeping these pillars in mind. Depending on their needs, I tried to provide as many resources to them as I could. For example, during the pandemic, I provided information on financial assistance and physical health resources. As for mental health, I couldn’t make appointments for them directly, but I pointed them in the direction of places where they could seek help. I’ve even practiced meditation and mindfulness with them. 

I think our classes are enriching for all the parents, but especially for the mothers who are often the majority in my workshops. What I’ve noticed is that these moms become ambassadors, who bring knowledge back to their families. So if schools don’t do their part to provide parents with resources, they can’t help their children become the best students they can be. My experience at NACP reinforces the fact that schools have an active role in spreading mental health awareness. 

When the pandemic hit, we could no longer hold workshops in person. This made it difficult for me to connect with parents because not many of us are computer savvy, but the pandemic also made it even more important for us to hold space for our mental health. It’s been challenging to learn how to use Microsoft Teams and I couldn’t have been able to continue this work if it hadn’t been for Vanessa at NACP. She was so important in helping us transition to virtual workshops. I also commend all the parents who put in the effort to learn these digital platforms, in order to attend our workshops. I appreciate their openness in admitting they don’t know how to use specific software, but they’re willing to learn so that they don’t miss a class. It’s inspiring to see how parents have gone out of their comfort zones to learn about mental health for themselves and their families.

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Victoria Mercel

Victoria Mercel

Victoria Mercel is a Community Health Promoter, or promotora. She was a promotora with the American Heart Association and gave workshops to cardiovascular diseases before accepting her new role as a promotora of mental health with the LA County Mental Health Department. Victoria’s currently working with the LA County Department of Health, in collaboration with UCLA and Esperanza Community Housing, to spread awareness and information about Covid-19 vaccines. She believes in empowering her community through destigmatizing mental illness because every human deserves kindness.

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