Parenting during a global pandemic is no joke. Parents, mothers, are all doing the best they can to take care of families with limited resources to manage this incredibly hard situation. The emotional and mental load has been particularly hard for Latinas. As Mental Health Month comes to a close, it’s important to look at the unique situation Latinas experience today.
There are a myriad reasons why Latina moms are facing major mental health stressors during this time. First, across the United States, the Latinx community has been the hardest hit; some states reporting Latinos are 20 times more likely to get the virus than other groups.
Latinas are more likely to work in service industry jobs such as restaurants and many have been let go during COVID-19. According to the Economic Policy Institute, only 1 in 6 Latinos can work from home. When looking at unemployment by ethnicity or race, 19 percent of Latinos are unemployed; the national average is 14.7 percent.
Like many in the U.S., many Latinx families were already living paycheck to paycheck prior to the pandemic. For many Latinx families relief isn’t coming: many Latinas won’t qualify for unemployment benefits due to their immigration status and if they are in mixed status marriages, they won’t even have access to a stimulus check.
According to Justice for Migrant Women, farmworkers lack basic personal protective equipment (PPE) to do their work safely, and despite being labeled “essential workers,” they do not qualify for many protections: no overtime, no sick leave and no unemployment insurance. Small business owners have also not had access to much of the relief money through the stimulus packages.
Latinx neighborhoods, like Queens, NY, have been hit hard for a variety of reasons. “What I’ve seen is many Latinx families sharing small apartments, unable to distance themselves from one another when sick,” says Jessica González-Rojas, a Queens resident and candidate for NY State Assembly. “Many street vendors [are] still going out to work because their partners lost their jobs and street vending is the only income they bring in, although it’s plummeted due to the reduced amount of people outside and willing to purchase items from a street vendor. It’s all so tragic – they are left out of stimulus and relief and are still on the frontlines in ways that make them incredibly vulnerable.”
Cultural factors also shape the Latina experience and can increase the mental health burden. According to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), “1 in 5 Latinos are Unpaid Caregivers.”. The caregiver is typically a Latina spending over 30 hours a week caring for an aging adult.
It’s no secret that women (regardless of ethnicity) often bear the brunt of childcare and domestic chores. With COVID-19, women are planning virtual playdates and taking care of remote learning while schools are closed.
Luz Collective spoke to Lina Acosta Sandaal, a Miami-based family therapist, about how Latinas can support their mental health during this time. She says “If it were up to me we would call it brain health, not mental health because mental health has a stigma,” says Sandaal. “This organ needs to be managed, maintained and cared for.”
Sandaal offers the following advice to help Latinas during this difficult time:
First, find your person.
Find that person that you can be 100 percent honest and vulnerable with, Sandaal says. Sometimes that can be a therapist (but it doesn’t have to be). Look in your family and look in your friendship circles and find the person that you can be most vulnerable with.
Make sure that you have some ritual of how you begin and you end your day. Make sure that you’re doing some kind of repetitive thing. For some people in our culture, it’s prayer, community with God. Something that you do to get you back to center.
Finally, ask yourself, “what can I really truly control today?” When thoughts of the future creep in, remind yourself you can control what is happening today. Putting focus on what you can control today. Every day stop and think: “Right here, right now, what can I do?” It’s about incorporating mindfulness into your day.
Anxiety is normal during this time, Sandaal says, but if you find yourself constantly scared, or if you have insomnia, then it is best to seek professional help. LatinxTherapy is a digital platform about mental health in the Latinx community where you can find a directory of over 1,500 Latinx therapists.
Finally, health tips that Sandaal recommends to follow all year long:
- Make sure you’re sleeping 7- 9 hours a night
- Make sure that you’re eating a well-rounded meal with vegetables and proteins.
- Make sure you’re moving.
- Make sure you’re socializing, even at a distance or virtually
Sandaal says, “In the end, accepting our emotional world without judgment and with empathy for self and others will get all of us on the other side of this curve.”
Diana Limongi is a Latina mom, activist, blogger and host of Parenting and Politics podcast. She lives in New York City with her multicultural family.