Hurricane Harvey

New Program Addresses Depression, Sexual Violence in Communities Still Struggling after Harvey

Mental health resources are already scarce for low-income individuals and even harder to find in Spanish.

Marisol Salgado is a licensed professional counselor in Texas and will be working with the community through St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.

A new Spanish-language counseling program aims to help low-income communities in Houston deal with Harvey-related trauma.

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St. Paul's Episcopal church is piloting the grant-funded program with a new bilingual licensed professional counselor and by working with the Hope Clinic.

More than a year after the storm, St. Paul’s Reverend Ed Gómez said he sees people in under-resourced parts of Southeast Houston continuing to suffer.

“The devastation came here in the aftermath when unemployment, underemployment began to hit,” said Reverend Gómez.

Serving a mostly low-income, Latino congregation, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church aims to provide mental health services the community wouldn’t normally have access to.

After a number of employers either closed or moved their businesses, many people lost jobs they still haven’t been able to recover, according to Gómez.

“That impact in a small area that’s under-resourced has a higher impact economically than maybe in other areas that can absorb it,” he said.

Underemployment has led to depression, anxiety, isolation and serious behavioral health problems.

“A lot of that is externalized through sexual violence, sexual assault, domestic violence,” he said.

A report from August 2018 found low-income individuals as more likely to say their lives were disrupted by Harvey. Findings also indicated a need for mental health services, as only 8 percent of survey respondents said someone in their household had accessed mental health services.

The church's new bilingual counselor, Marisol Salgado, is now offering free mental health services.

She said that, to start, she’s working on educating communities about what counseling is.

“Mental health in the Latino community is a big taboo,” said Salgado.

Literature on the new bilingual counseling program for people still affected by Harvey.

Salgado added that she doubts any of the people she’s serving have accessed any form of counseling before.

Salgado also said there are few Spanish-language therapists in the city to begin with, so seeking counseling isn’t common. According to Houston’s Planning and Development Department , 38 percent of residents speak Spanish.

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