Drug cartels struggle for dominance throughout Mexico. Palomas is no exception. Over the 15 years that Border Partners has worked there, the amount of violence has varied but many people, of all ages, have been traumatized by kidnappings, abductions, and harassment. So far, in 2023, at least four young adults have “disappeared” from Palomas.
Children and young people are among those most affected by this horrendous situation and have been scarred by it. Palomas offers no opportunities for mental health services for the public. COVID school closures forced students to learn at home. That left leaving with no clear routes to instruction. They had no educational materials. And they enjoyed very little contact with others. So they didn’t have important opportunities to build social skills, values, and responsibility.
Although schools have now reopened, many difficulties remain. Many adults have no jobs. Salaries remain low for those lucky enough to have a job. And, now, increasing inflation makes families even more vulnerable.
All of this makes children feel unsafe.
Into this dire situation, Border Partners has stepped in to help provide much-needed mental health services.
Enter Antonia Chayrez
Last year, Border Partners was fortunate enough to hire Antonia Chayrez as a full-time family counselor. She’s worked diligently to help both students in school and community members.
Each month, she provides classes to over 550 students, aged 5 to 12 years old. Her varied workshops help children build important life skills. These include:
- learning to recognize and manage their emotions,
- building self-esteem,
- understanding values
- respecting self and others,
- preventing bullying,
- breaking bad habits, and
- making healthy life-style choices.
She gives mental health screenings to all the children. And, when people are in need, she can provide individual counseling to any student as well as their family.
Assessing children’s mental health improvement
According to teachers, the program is already having an impact. The social and mental health of students is improving. As students return to a predictable school environment, their situation normalizes. And healthy routine is positive. Added to that, they now have the opportunity to learn about the importance of all aspects of their being due to Antonia Cheyrez’s instruction and counseling.
It is our hope that by teaching young children to see the importance of mental health, accompanied by counseling services, students will develop healthy habits and feel empowered. They’ll learn to express their feelings and ask for help. When accessing mental health assistance is part of life in Palomas, it will eliminate any stigma related to accessing mental health services.
Finally, through these workshops, students will learn how to talk to one another, to listen, and to disagree respectfully. These steps forward will help the youngest generation see the importance of good mental and emotional health. It will improve their behavior at school. Their home lives will become productive as they pursue their goals.
In the end, we want the students in Palomas to develop resilience and live healthy and productive lives. We’re doing our best to make that happen.