In recognition of Mental Health Awareness Month, Healthcare Georgia Foundation will be shining a spotlight on organizations across Georgia that are working to raise awareness of mental health issues, provide services, and advocate for fair and equitable access to mental health care.
The Foundation’s next organization to be highlighted is Ser Familia, and below you’ll find the contents of our recent interview with the group.
When was Ser Familia founded? When did you begin to provide mental health services, and what inspired you to address mental health?
Our organization was founded in 2001. We are a highly effective nonprofit offering family, social and mental health services and resources to Latinos in Georgia, using evidence-based programming with strong and consistent outcomes, all in a linguistically and culturally appropriate framework. Ser Familia started in response to the lack of support for Latinos across the area and as a couple’s program. Through the years, we expanded our services to include evidenced-based parenting classes, youth programming, domestic violence victims’ services, and Cultural & Linguistic Proficiency Training among others. This capacity expansion included the addition, in 2012, of bilingual/bicultural mental health professionals, who could provide support to our clients and families. As the organization grew and we uncovered the multiple and complex needs of the clients we were serving, we understood the critical need of these services. The disparity of the number of Latinos in the Atlanta Metro Area and the number of professionals available to serve them is one of the worst in the nation, therefore, the services we provide are exceptionally needed.
What is the mission of your organization? What are some of your goals in regards to your mental health work?
Ser Familia’s mission is to equip Latino individuals and families with the tools, resources, and skills they need to move from crisis to thriving. Ser Familia provides coordinated multidisciplinary family, social, and mental health services to Latino families by breaking down the barriers for them to live healthy lives. Our vision is to see all Latino families flourishing and contributing to the wellbeing of their communities. Ser Familia strives to strengthen, revitalize, and empower Latino families through a variety of programs for the whole family such as meeting basic needs, crises intervention, family workshops, youth programs, a continuum of mental health services, legal services, and providing client-centered counseling services to individuals and families.
What mental health services does your organization provide?
Ser Familia provides mental health counseling services to children, youth, adults and families. Latino youth in Georgia have much higher rates of anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation than youth of any other race/ethnicity and almost any other youth in the nation! They are also in a more vulnerable position overall. 38% of Latino children in our state live in households where no adult has a high school diploma. This number is extremely high when compared to 10% of black children and 6% of white children who live in the same circumstances. 31.9% of Latino children live in poverty in our state, which is higher than the 31.3% of black children or the 11.5% of white children who live in poverty. Ser Familia is able to tackle the issues that seriously affect our kids from various fronts: peer-support groups, mental health counseling for them and their families, family psycho-educational groups (Strengthening Families), concrete supports (rent/food) and much more; all of it delivered in a highly effective culturally and linguistically appropriate manner by an all Latino staff. Ser Familia is the leading agency in the state of Georgia providing culturally specific and linguistically proficient family services to Spanish–speaking Latinos. Ser Familia continually works to expand the breadth and depth of the services that we provide to Latino families by consistently developing curricula, materials, and programs to address educational, trauma, and behavioral issues to prevent future concerns, as more Latino families seems to suffer from mental issues than other population counterparts (research shows). In Addition, Ser Familia has the capacity to treat young children who have suffered trauma in our specialized Child Therapy Rooms and offers Individual Play Therapy for children, all of it in Spanish; these therapies help prevent or resolve emotional difficulties, assist in developing overall life coping skills, and promote optimal growth development. Ser Familia’s mental health counseling program offers a range of behavioral and mental health therapies from licensed and trained counselors, one of the very few Spanish-speaking psychologists in the state and has a contract with one of eight (8) Spanish-speaking psychiatrists in Georgia, who evaluates, prescribes, and manages medication for clients who require a multidisciplinary approach. In 2020, Ser Familia received national accreditation (CARF) for its mental health program in all four of its locations – the highest accreditation for agencies that provide these types of services.
Which area(s) of Georgia do you service?
What is your fee structure for services provided?
Our mental health services are provided at no cost to our clients thanks to our generous partnerships with leaders in our communities and government funding.
What is the one thing you wish more people understood about mental health and mental health services? What is your hope for the future in terms of mental health access and care?
Our work is crucial because our community continues to face unique limitations reaching mental health services. There is such a stigma, language barriers, and in some cases, legal status challenges. Latino culture tends to have more difficulties talking, sharing and opening up to others about mental health for fear of being categorized “crazy” or “unhinged.” Having the resources of an agency that offers their services in Spanish by a culturally competent and culturally sensitive, fully bilingual staff may facilitate the disposition to seek help to strengthen their overall mental health and to benefit from social support in the community.
How can individuals reach out to your organization to learn more about your work?
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Ser Familia was one of the very few organizations that remained open for “face to face” services and serving our community. We never closed our doors! We are always here for you! We can be reached at the central number 678-363-3079 and also through our website, www.serfamilia.org. We can also be reached on social media at the following links:
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
We form bonds with the youth and families that we serve that are very long-term, they become part of our Familia! Seeing them thrive is the fuel that keeps us going.