Changing the perception of mental illness

mh_article3Raised in nearby Pacoima, Luis Cervantes knows too well the needs of the community. So when he was approached in 2013 to join the El Centro de Amistad board of directors, he recognized this was an opportunity to alter the way people perceive mental illness and “to destigmatize the community that we serve,” Luis says, who quickly rose to leadership serving as our current board president. As a child he remembers anyone mentioning mental illness would be rebuffed. “There is an emotional strengthening that our community needs because of what they go through,” Luis acknowledges who also serves as the director of finance for the Los Angeles Jewish Home for Aging. In San Fernando and Santa Clarita Valley, access to mental health care is a serious issue with suicide being one of the top ten causes of death in this geographic location, according to a community needs assessment conducted by the Valley Care Community Consortium. One client’s story that stands out for Luis is that of a five-year-old child who witnessed her mother’s abuse at the hands of her dad. “There are folks, including children, going through difficult times,” says Luis. “You see it in how they are affected in school and socially.” Luis_CervantesAs Board President, his primary goals are to ensure strategic planning and policy development, oversight and management of the organization, its budgeting and fundraising. El Centro de Amistad serves more than 750 low-income, primarily Latino children, adults and families in the San Fernando Valley annually at its two clinics in Canoga Park and San Fernando. Luis is proud to be volunteering at ECDA that provides the support and tools necessary for families to overcome their struggle with mental illness. He’s just as proud knowing his two daughters, 12 and 10, are growing up in a family that understands the importance of mental health. And that’s one less family to destigmatize. Ways you can help To help children, families, and individuals overcome the barriers of mental health and receive the support we provide them, please donate to Share this email newsletter with a friend or loved one. Attend our open house on May 4 to learn more about our programs and services.