Got questions about mental illness? Local non-profit to host conference in Spanish

Language barriers may hinder people in local communities from getting adequate information about mental illness – but an upcoming conference is encouraging people to come and ask questions.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness of New Jersey (NAMI NJ), a non-profit organization dedicated to helping individuals and families affected by mental illness, will hold its first conference in Spanish at the St. Joseph of Palisades Community Center in West New York on Saturday, Oct. 11, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The conference, “Mental Health in the Latino Community,” was created to offer members of the community the opportunity to ask questions and receive answers about mental illness in their native language, according to Director Martha Silva.

“The problem that I find is that most of these people don’t get enough information,” said Silva. She said that language and cultural barriers, as well as time constraints, may hinder people in the community from getting educated about mental illness and how to cope with living with a family member with mental illness.

Silva said that the conference will provide comprehensive information.

“This will be given at a level the community understands,” she said. “They will be able to hear, speak, express, question in Spanish.”

The conference, which includes breakfast, lunch, and two breaks, will cost consumers of mental health services $5, and $10 for all other attendees. People who are interested in attending must register by this Tuesday, Sept. 30 by calling (888) 803-3413. NAMI also runs monthly support groups in this area in both Spanish and English, and those are free.

Four lecturers The conference will include four lectures by experts from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) with time for questions from participants.

Dr. Humberto Marin, an assistant professor of psychiatry, will discuss mood disorders, such as depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.

Francisco Ortiz, LPC, a senior child therapist, will talk about educating and raising kids in a bicultural environment.

“There is going to be communication and advice for parents,” said Silva.

Alejandro Interian, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychiatry, will discuss medication compliance among Hispanic patients.

“He is going to be talking about medication,” said Silva. “A big problem of people with mental illness is medication adherence.” She also said complying with medicine is often an integral part of therapy.

“What [Interian] is going to try to teach them is how important it is to take the medication correctly,” she said.

Dr. Arnaldo Negron, a psychiatrist and assistant professor of psychiatry, will speak about mental health for seniors.

“Families should be aware of the needs of seniors,” said Silva. “I just thought that if they hear a doctor who has so much background in senior mental health, it would be an eye-opener.”

Talk among yourselves In addition to getting professional advice, participants will also be able to speak with each other during breaks.

“They all have something in common, which is mental illness in their families,” said Silva. “It is a support for all of them.”

She said that those who come will discover that there are people just like them coping with similar situations.

“Besides the moment of questioning and interacting, it is a moment of seeing,” said Silva.

NAMI NJ also offers local support groups and educational services for individuals and families affected by mental illness, conducted both in Spanish and in English. For more information, call (888) 803-3413.


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