New Study To Look At Mental Health Needs Of Queer Immigrant Latinas

Researchers at San Francisco State University will gather research through a survey that will inform policies and training of mental health professionals.

The Hispanic LGBT community is one that grows exponentially year after year.  As the Hispanic population continues to increase in the United States, it is becoming ever more prevalent there are significant needs and issues that require attention.

Due to a combination of large Hispanic families and the increasing number of Hispanic immigrants, the population continues to boom. According to the census in 2012, the Hispanic community comprises about seventeen per cent of the American population.

That equates to about 53 million people.  According to a study done in 2013 by the UCLA Williams Institute, of those 53 million, 1.4 million identify as LGBT.

Ours is a culture with deep roots and traditions.  In stark contradiction, we are also trying to integrate ourselves and blend in with the American culture. Confusing and even combative at times, Hispanics – especially LGBT Hispanics – are facing some serious social changes.

Dr. Alison Cerezo, a Latina and proud member of the LGBT community, is currently conducting a study for Hispanic LGBT immigrants to better address the issues that affect us. Dr. Cerezo is on the leadership council for the National Latina/o Psychological Association and is also currently an early career leadership fellow for them.

Coming from a mixed family and an LGBT perspective, she personally understands the needs of our community.

Her study calls for 160 surveys to be completed between June and July.  Cerezo explains the goals for the study by saying, “I wanted to help illuminate the mental health needs of queer immigrant Latinas so that I could publish the results that in turn would be used to inform policies and training of mental health professionals.

Policies and education in the psychology field is heavily grounded in empirical research so this was my attempt at collecting data so that we could speak to the needs of this vital and underserved community.”

She, herself, has experienced some of the obstacles and issues that many Hispanic LGBTs face.  From family acceptance, to ignorant neighbors and biased strangers, she has experienced it all.

She and her partner have needed to be incredibly cautious in deciding where they would live.  Selecting graduate programs and locations that would ensure their safety and well-being has been difficult, but they’ve been able to manage.

Boldly asking questions that go straight to the heart of the matter, Dr. Cerezo’s study addresses topics which are universal in the LGBT community, and many that are unique to the Hispanic culture.  She asks such questions as, “Why did you migrate to the United States?””How often … (as an adult) were you rejected by your family because of your sexual orientation?”

“Have you been told to consult a mental health professional because of your sexual orientation?”  And, “Have you moved away from friends and family because of your sexual  orientation?”

She hopes to blaze trails so that the academia and psychological societies can better serve the Hispanic LGBT community.  Her goal is to make the community more visible, and to help get LGBT Hispanics into positions of mentoring and leadership to move the community forward.

Dr. Cerezo understands the need for community support, safety concerns, and the fact that so many are working so hard simply to survive.  With the help of Dr. Cerezo, Latino/a LGBT people will be able to get the understanding, respect and services that they need.