January 2009         

Sonia Troche

Despite being the director of Adelante, the Latino Resource Center in Lucas County, Sonia Troche was unable to get mental health care for her mother.  Sonia knows the social service and mental health system in her county, yet she was astonished to discover that there were so many barriers preventing her mother from getting help for her depression. 

There were cultural barriers.  Like many Latinos, Sonia’s mother believes one’s fate is destined and therefore, she is reluctant to participate in therapy.   There were funding barriers.  Sonia’s mother does not have insurance and does not qualify for assistance.  And there were language barriers.  Sonia’s mother does not speak English.  “We had to relocate Mom to Texas where my brother lives so that she could have access to bi-lingual services.  She is scheduled for an assessment and we’re hopeful that she’ll keep the appointment and accept treatment,” Sonia said. 

"How can we talk about community wellness if we are not addressing the mental state of families in our communities?".

When Sonia’s mother started showing signs of depression: crying easily and often, not eating, not sleeping, expressing defeatist thoughts and seeing no purpose in her life, she and her siblings knew they had to act.  “Mental illness is not a stranger to our family, both my maternal grandmother and my uncle have taken their own lives,” Sonia said.   

As a result of this experience, Sonia learned that if she, a leader in her community, could not get help for her own mother, how will others in her situation ever get the help they need?    Through her work at Adelante, Sonia advocates for Latinos in the areas of economic development, health and education, encompassing social services and mental health.  The goal of the center is to strengthen the foundation of family structure and relationships, eliminate barriers to services, improve the wellness of the community, and serve as the link to businesses, organizations and other institutions to the Latino Community.  She and Adelante work closely with NAMI Greater Toledo, recognizing its vital role in supporting, educating and advocating for families and individuals with mental illness.

Sonia’s family came to the United States when she was young.  She understands cultural differences and cultural competency.  She also understands that, regardless of one’s background and life conditions, each and every one of us is a person, an individual with unique needs.  She knows that when help is needed, help needs to be available.

The inability to find help for her mother has left Sonia with a new sense of need.  According to her, “My mother’s experience has reminded me that our communities do not understand the Latino community or mental illness.  I must use my personal and professional energy to do what I can, to work together with others to deal with our cultural barriers.  Each of us must step up and represent our loved ones.  We cannot accept that there is no budget for needed services.  How can we talk about community wellness if we are not addressing the mental state of families in our communities?”

Last month, Faith Finley, a 17-year old girl was restrained in a residential treatment center here in Ohio and died.  As part of the investigation into her death, it was determined that Ohio’s policies on seclusion and restraint are as plentiful as the number of state agencies who license these facilities.  For those of us who advocate on behalf of individuals often subject to these policies, this was not new information.  In fact, we remember well when The Cincinnati Enquirer devoted several articles to this very topic in a series entitled, Troubled Minds, Chaotic Care.

“…thousands of kids are caught in a system so confusing that even officials in the state Department of Mental Health and Department of Job and Family Services struggle to explain how it works.  State officials don’t even track how many investigations of abuse and neglect are done or their outcomes.  At times the two departments argue over which agency should inspect which center.  With state oversight spotty and confounding, much of the burden for funding and operating the mental health care system falls to 88 different counties.  As many as five agencies in one county might share responsibility for a child – who may be in treatment several counties away or even out of state.” 

                  -- Cincinnati Enquirer March 22, 2004                                  

Recently, Governor Ted Strickland called for a single statewide policy on the use of restraints.  We applaud his effort.  It is a shame that the systemhad not acted sooner to address this situation.  Perhaps Faith would still be with us today. 


Stigma Busting Challenge: Rent a movie about mental illness, such as A Beautiful Mind, Sybil, As Good as It Gets, Ordinary People.