Community organization Latinos in Action California, based in Long Beach, is hosting its eighth annual conference titled Renacer: Fe, Gratitud y Resiliencia (Rebirth: Faith, Gratitude & Resilience) on March 20, aiming to bring psychological resources to the Latinx community, which has been disproportionately affected by COVID-19.
According to recent Long Beach City data, Hispanic or Latinos make up 42% of the City’s total population and are also the demographic most impacted by COVID-19, making up 37% of the City’s cases.
Statewide, Latinos make up 56.4% of coronavirus cases and 38.9% of the population, according to California’s COVID-19 website as of Tuesday, March 2.
A UCLA Health report from the Center for the Study of Latino Health and Culture said that from May 11, 2020, to Nov. 2020— 9,233 Latino people in California died from COVID-19 related causes in comparison to 5,781 non-Hispanic whites. Both populations are similar in size, the report said with Latinos standing at 15.5 million and non-Hispanic whites at 14.5 million.
The pandemic has also brought other hardships that are taking its toll on the mental health of the community.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), communities of color encounter more financial and health risks associated with COVID-19 because of economic and social factors.
Approximately a quarter of Black and Hispanic people work in the service industry such as restaurants, hospitality and retail, and are at risk for loss of income because of COVID-19 related-closures due to social distancing protocols, KFF said.
Acknowledging the harsh realities currently affecting the Latinx community, founder of Latinos in Action California, Martha Cota, wanted to highlight how COVID-19 affects mental health and how people can move forward.
“Resiliency is very important in these times,” she said. “We know that many of our families have been affected, they have lost a loved one or a close friend and we want this time to be a rebirth, a new era, a new opportunity.”
She continued, “We want them to know that although [the pandemic is ongoing] we are here for them and we can get through it together with resilience. We also want to have gratitude and faith that we’re going to get out of this stage.”
The conference is slated to have a group of speakers who will touch on mental health during the pandemic.
Among the speakers hosting workshops at the conference will be Dr. Jorge Partida, chief of psychology for the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health and Elisa Jimenez, director at California Mental Health Connection.
The mental health professionals invited will be discussing what the community has been experiencing during the pandemic and will share strategies and ideas on how they can keep moving forward.
“More than anything, it’s going to be about emotional [well-being], the psychological, everything that has been hurting us inside and we haven’t been able to let go of,” Cota said. “It’s going to be a beautiful moment where people will be able to express the emotions that they have been repressing for a year.”
Participants will be given time to break off and have conversations where they can share their own experiences from the past year with one another.
Additionally, a list of mental health resources will be provided with services that can be obtained on a citywide and county level.
Some of the organizations who are scheduled to share their services include YWCA, offering support for women who have experienced different forms of trauma and the Long Beach Trauma Recovery Center, which seeks to “address barriers to mental health services in diverse communities.”
Cota, who has been collaborating with District 1 councilmember Mary Zendejas and District 7 councilmember Roberto Uranga to bring mobile vaccine clinics to historically underserved neighborhoods in Long Beach, is eager to help the Latinx community through the pandemic.
“For Latinos In Action, it is very important that our community knows that we are here with them, that we are present, and we’re in the same boat as them,” Cota said. “Our doors are open for them to hold conversations about what they are going through.”
The organization’s founder expressed the importance of solidarity as the pandemic continues to take hold.
“I believe this is the time to show more humanity,” she said. “The message is, we’re here, we’re with you. […] We are rowing the same boat and if someone gets tired, there is someone else there to help.”
The Latinos in Action conference will take place Saturday, March 20 from 10a.m. to 1p.m. For more information on registering for the event follow @latinosinactioncalifornia’s Facebook and Instagram pages.