Diversity Fellows: Increasing Access to Youth Mental Health Awareness Training in Hispanic Communities in Georgia

Emily Graybill, PhD, Katherine Suarez, MPH, Mariana Ortiz, BS candidate, & Brenda Liz Muñoz, MS


Over the years, Georgia has grown in population, with much growth in the Spanish speaking community. Along with steadily growing Spanish-speaking communities, the need for health-related resources, including education on mental health issues, has been growing. When arriving to a new country, Latinx youth may face various forms of stress from fitting in at school, facing a language barrier, or worrying about family separation. Studies have shown that Latinx youth are at a higher risk of developing depression and suicide than any other ethnic group (1). With higher risk for depression and suicide, parents and adults that work with these youth must have access to mental health awareness training to properly assist youth when they begin to show signs and symptoms of a mental health concern.

For this project, Katherine Suarez and Mariana Ortiz, the two Diversity Fellows working for and with the Latino Community of Practice within the Center for Leadership in Disability at the School of Public Health at Georgia State University were able to be trained as Youth Mental Health First Aiders in English and in Spanish.

The main objective was to de-stigmatize mental health and help cultures understand how it works to better assist the youth in their lives. To promote this course, they assisted with creating flyers and disseminating them into the community through email listservs. To make sure the project goals were being met, meetings were set for once a week to discuss how to engage the Spanish speaking community in taking the training. Culturally relevant information was a main point to target since many people in the population did not identify mental health as a major issue.

This project began in January of 2019 and thus far the Diversity Fellows have been able to conduct 11 trainings that have certified 145 Spanish speaking first aiders that consisted of various professionals, parents, and faith community members. The trainings limited the group to 15 participants to allow for more questions and discussion without hindering the end time—a cultural and linguistic responsive approach.

Through this work, the Diversity Fellows have been able to create lasting relationships with organizations in the community and have been able to promote the trainings through these new professional networks. Partnering with these organizations, some who have been trained in Youth Mental Health, have assisted in engaging community members that the Diversity Fellows may not have been able to reach. Some organizations that that have partnered with the Center for Leadership in Disability are Lazos Hispanos in Athens, churches in Dalton, Gainesville, and Marietta, CEPTA, a premier mental health serving the growing Latinx community in Norcross, Corners Outreach in Peachtree Corners, Ser Familia in Smyrna, and open trainings for the public on our Georgia State University downtown campus in Atlanta.



  1. (1) Ford-Paz, et al. “Culturally Tailored Depression/Suicide Prevention in Latino Youth: Community Perspectives.” The Journal of Behavioral Health Services & Research, 42(4) pp 519–533..