Addressing Emotional Wellness During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Summary and introduction


Introduction: The disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Latino communities has resulted in more reports of depression, anxiety and stress. We present a community-led intervention in Latino communities that integrates social services with the provision of mental health services for a justice-based response.

METHODS: We used tracking sheets to identify 1,436 unique participants (ages 5–86) who participated in Latino Health Access’ Emotional Wellness program, of whom 346 were in the pre-COVID-19 period (March 2019-February 2020 ) and 1,090 were enrolled in the COVID. phase -19 period (March-June 2020). Demographics and types of services were aggregated to assess monthly trends using Pearson 2 tests. Regression models were developed to compare factors related to remittances in the pre-COVID-19 and COVID-19 periods.

Results: During the pandemic, service volume (P <.001) and subscriber volume (P <.001) increased significantly compared to the prepandemic. Participant characteristics were similar in both time periods, the only differences being the age distribution, expanded geographic reach, and increased male participation during the pandemic. Unreferred services, such as peer support, increased during the pandemic. The nature of referrals changed significantly from primarily mental health services and disease management in the pre-pandemic period to affordable housing support, food aid and additional income.

Conclusion: An effective mental health program in response to the pandemic must include direct mental health services and address social needs that exacerbate the mental health risk for Latino communities. This study presents a model of how both factors can be integrated through the use of promoter-led programs.


The mental health needs of working-class black and Latin American communities have long been inadequate in the United States.[1] The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated mental health needs through unpredictability and insecurity, physical distancing, social isolation, job and income loss, mortality and social suffering.[2] Of the U.S. adults surveyed in June 2020, 52.1% of Hispanic adults reported having at least 1 negative mental or behavioral health status, compared with 37.8% of non-Hispanic white adults. Hispanic adults reported a higher prevalence of anxiety or depressive disorders, trauma and stressor-related disorders, substance use for stress management, and suicidal ideation.[3] These differences in mental health effects reflect the grief, loss, and stress associated with financial uncertainty due to the pandemic in Latino communities.[4] who, along with other racial and ethnic minority communities, are disproportionately affected by COVID-19 due to structural racism.[5]

Experts call for local implementation[6] community-level mental health interventions and prevention efforts that integrate financial aid and social services, promote social cohesion, and provide culturally and linguistically tailored education about COVID-19 and mental health.[2,3] The American Psychological Association has also called for a “reinterpretation” of the behavioral health system that reaches people where they are, recognizes wisdom in each community to solve their own problems, and seeks innovative roles for new psychiatrists who stick with it are rooted in their communities.[6,7] In response to these calls for action, this study examined the role of promotores de salud (community health workers) in delivering community-led and integrated mental health and social services in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Orange County’s Latino communities, California. Our findings could provide a model for integrating equity into mental health interventions during and after the pandemic.

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