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‘Healing Voices’ Initiative Provides Mental Health Support to Farm Workers

Farmworkers spend hours doing work that is physically taxing but when it comes to their mental health the weight of their grueling jobs may not be as evident but it’s still just as serious. A new initiative and the first of its kind, “Healing Voices“, will aid some of the nearly 3 million farmworkers in the U.S. enduring harsh working conditions and economic instability which only worsened during the pandemic. The initiative is a collaboration between the Workers Lab Innovation Fund, Collective Future Fund, Justice for Migrant Women, the National Migrant and Seasonal Head Start Program, Latinx Therapy, and the Eva Longoria Foundation.

“Mental health is a health and wellness issue, but it is also a critical workers’ issue that we all must address,” Founder and President of Justice for Migrant Women Mónica Ramírez said in a press release. “This program does just that in addressing a critical gap in the farmworker organizing ecosystem – focusing on healing personal and community trauma as a needed step in increasing power for farmworkers to be advocates and activists.”

Among the 915,725 agricultural workers and their family members who received health care services at Migrant Health Centers in 2019, mental health disorders were one of the most commonly reported diagnoses, according to a report from the National Center for Farmworker Health. More than 41,000 (4.6 percent) were diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, and over 33,000 (3.6 percent) were diagnosed with a depressive disorder.

A comparison study of 35 Latina agricultural workers and 60 Latina non-agricultural workers found that the agricultural workers had significantly higher mean scores on scales measuring stress and anxiety as compared to the non-agricultural workers. Additionally, more than one in four (28.6 percent) of the agricultural worker women had elevated depressive symptoms.

Now amid the pandemic the stats indicated just how much the pandemic impacted the overall health of farmworkers. Two in three (66 percent) farmers/farmworkers say the pandemic has impacted their mental health, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation poll. They also found that the percentage of farmers/farmworkers who say social isolation impacts farmers’ mental health increased 22% since April 2019,  this is especially significant considering how many hours farmworkers labor alone.

In order to meet farmworkers in a space that is accessible to them, the initiative developed a new model aimed at healing. Latinx Therapy, a collective of Latinx wellness experts, will provide support groups conducted via Zoom. In the support groups, farmworkers will share their stories and create video diaries in order to mobilize, build power, and influence policy making.

“We join forces with passionate organizations working with the farmworker community to provide support groups, and recruit Spanish-speaking Latinx Therapists as a way to bring community, understanding and cultural humility to the ‘Healing Voices’ project through our training and lived experiences as children of immigrants and our priority is to equip the farmworkers with strategies and tools that can be useful for long-term mental health care” said Adriana Alejandre, LMFT and Founder/ Host of Latinx Therapy and its corresponding podcast.