OYEN Emotional Wellness Center helped save the life of Edgar Hernenio Garcia of Portland who became a suicide after moving from Guatemala to Oregon.
Woodburn, OR – Edgar Hernino Garcia says the beginning of counseling in OYEN Emotional Wellness Center Help save his life.
Garcia, who lives in Portland, speaks only Spanish, and the language and cultural barriers he faced when moving from Guatemala to Oregon made adjusting to his new life difficult.
After experiencing a host of hardships, Garcia said he became suicidal.
“I was at the point where I wanted to commit suicide myself,” Garcia said through an interpreter. “I really need psychological help.”
Finding OYEN just over a year ago “motivated me to be more positive in life, to start over,” Garcia said.
From a crisis response team to a statewide mental health clinic
OYEN, located on North Arney Road in Woodburn, is the only bilingual and bicultural mental health clinic in Oregon. All therapists at the center are members of the Latino community who are trained to provide culturally responsive care.
Because of the language barrier he encountered, Garcia said he didn’t know how to get help until he found OYEN.
“That’s why we stay silent sometimes,” Garcia said.
It started in 2020 as a mental health crisis mobile team to support various members of the community affected by bushfires. OYEN Emotional Wellness Center was founded soon after by Anthony Velez and Melinda Avila.
“[We] The great need and demand in our society was driven by culturally and linguistically appropriate therapy,” Velez said.
OYEN employs therapists who have shared live experiences with many clients. They partner with other community organizations that serve the target communities they work with. They are also working to reduce the stigma around mental health care by changing the language they use, calling it emotional wellness, not mental health.
OYEN offers therapeutic services, including teletherapy, pediatric therapy and couples sessions. They schedule appointments in the evenings and on weekends and serve clients of all ages statewide. Report: Kids in Oregon Nation ‘Definitely More Stressed’
“OYEN understands that our community needs resilience, so we serve our customers when they need it,” Velez said.
OYEN accepts most insurance plans, including the Oregon Health Plan. If the client has had a mental health crisis, there have been instances where he has made exceptions and provided care despite the insurance status using outside funding.
Individuals seeking mental health services can reach OYEN at (503) 395-4224 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
‘We can relate to them’: The importance of culturally conscious therapy
OYEN therapist Jose Arredondo Araujo moved to the United States from Mexico when he was twelve years old. Not yet knowing how to speak English, he said it was hard to feel welcome while adjusting to a different culture and trying to learn a new language.
“I always wanted to call someone, just to feel welcome in the community,” Araujo said.
His experience made him realize that there were not many mental health resources for the Latino community, and this inspired him to pursue a career in social work and clinical counseling.
It can be difficult to obtain mental health care for individuals who do not speak English and finding a therapist who understands your cultural needs and experiences can be even more difficult. Having culturally competent healers is what makes OYEN so special, Araujo said.
“We can deal with them. We speak the same language,” Araujo said.
What does the treatment look like?
Velez made it clear that OYEN does not believe in a one-size-fits-all model of care.
“OYEN is committed to meeting our clients wherever they are, both emotionally and physically,” said Velez.
OYEN therapists make sure clients are aware of what to expect during their sessions and assure them that it’s okay if they don’t know where to start.
Araujo says he likes to have clients identify what helps them most, or if they don’t know, work together to find it.
“It’s a collaborative approach,” Araujo said.
Therapists can help clients with issues like anxiety, depression, coping, and anger management, as well as things that can help them transition into the community, such as getting a library card or bus ticket.
OYEN therapists try to normalize the experience for clients and make them feel comfortable having a conversation. Araujo said he tells his clients during early sessions: “What you’re going through, it’s a normal reaction.”
Araujo believes OYEN has a real impact in society and said he has seen the results with his clients.
“It was just an amazing ride,” Araujo said.
One such client is Garcia, who said he feels he is doing a much better job than he was a year ago.
“They helped me save my life,” Garcia said. “I am very grateful.”
Sydney White covers healthcare inequality in the Mid Willamette Valley for the Statesman Journal. You can contact her at SWyatt@gannett.com, by phone (503) 399-6613, or on Twitter @sydney_elise44 The Statesman Journal’s coverage of healthcare inequalities is funded in part by the MJ Murdock Charitable Trust, which seeks to advance the culture, base The social, educational, and spiritual aspect of the Pacific Northwest through capacity building investments in the nonprofit sector.