Take Care of Your Mental Health

Vecinos: information and advice for our American communities

Take Care of Your Mental Health

by Ellen Lee Alderton

When health threats such as AIDS, cancer, or diabetes receive so much public attention, you may not realize that mental illnesses are actually much more common than any of these other diseases. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, one out of five adults in the United States will experience a mental disorder each year. Conditions such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, and anxiety can strike anyone at any time – regardless of how old you are, what country you come from, or how much money you have. It’s also important to remember that mental illnesses are no one’s fault; they are biological brain disorders.

The symptoms of mental illness can be devastating not only for those afflicted, but also for their family members and loved ones. Mental illnesses can strike their victims with delusions, hallucinations, panic attacks, or hopelessness and despair – causing suffering and disrupting lives.

Sadly, in the Latino/Hispanic community, this story can be even worse. Stressors such as leaving one’s country behind, leaving behind a situation of violence, not knowing the new culture, intergenerational tension in immigrant families, and poverty can all make mental health problems worse. For these reasons, the Department of Health and Human Services and the National Institute on Drug Abuse report that Latino/Hispanics in this country tend to experience higher rates of depression, distress, PTSD, substance abuse, and other mental health conditions.

But it’s important to remember that there’s hope. With the proper medical attention, mental illnesses can be treated – but they won’t go away by themselves. If you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of a mental illness, it’s important to go see a doctor. A psychologist or a psychiatrist can prescribe medications or recommend a therapist to help with the problem.

Ana Lazu, a mental health promotora and one-time Executive Director of Latinos Unidos Siempre in Connecticut, says that when she began her own struggles with mental health problems, she faced a “double stigma.” There was the challenge of having a mental illness and the challenge of confronting this illness as a Latina. “Within the Hispanic community,” she says, there was the attitude that you don’t talk about psychology; you may go to your priest, family members or espiritista for help, but you would never visit a doctor or take medication.”

Yet visiting a doctor or taking medication can be life changing. In this month, as the United Nations recognizes World Mental Health Day, be sure to take care of your own mental health or the mental health of a loved one. If you need help, don’t try to go it alone.

(Ellen Lee Alderton is Director of Education for La Mano Amiga, a national nonprofit organization providing informational resources to Latino immigrants.)

My go-to book: “Seven Spiritual Laws of Success.”

by Aixa G. López

Go for it!

I love reading. I have always loved the ability to learn about other people’s ideas, experiences, successes, and challenges. I love reading non-fiction books because they seem more real to me.

Over the years, I have read plenty of books, but for some reason, there is one book I always go back to, especially when I feel unbalanced in my life. No, it’s not the Bible. I wish it were, but even when I like reading the Bible, it’s a little bit complicated sometimes. When I feel unbalanced, I like straight forward and simple things to learn.

I bought this book in 1997 just before moving from Puerto Rico to Upstate NY. I was in a pharmacy store and saw this thin, small, and cheap book that caught my attention. I bought it and started reading it. I liked the introduction and told my husband about it. At that time, he was not an avid reader, so I asked him if he minded listening to me reading the book out loud so I could share the information with him. It seems odd, but he agreed. Night after night we sat down, and I read it out loud.

This book’s name is the “Seven Spiritual Laws of Success” by Deepak Chopra. What this book states challenged my life and personality in so many ways. I am a very driven person, and I grew up believing that I could control my present and my future. I wanted the world to think the way I thought, and I believed that because something was the “right thing to do,” it was evident to everyone.

These seven laws sometimes don’t make sense to us (at least they didn’t make sense to me) because they are based on ideas and concepts that are not popular in our society. Concepts such as “Least Effort”, “Giving”, “Detachment”, and “Purpose”. I have to admit that these laws were tough for me to swallow and still are.

Let’s start with the First Law: The Law of Pure Potentiality.

The First Law is about our existence. It says that each of our actions is based on our ego and our ego is our self-image. That means that if we think we are shy, we will behave that way. If we believe we are confident, that’s the way we will act. If you feel you are better than others, your actions will be based on that. That’s pretty obvious. However, we are so much more than what we think we are.

Our true-self (not our self-image) is our spirit, our soul and it is completely free of our ego (like when we are children). It is immune to criticism, it is fearless of any challenge, and it feels beneath no one. Moreover, it is also humble and feels superior to no one, because it recognizes that everyone else is the same “Self,” the same spirit in different disguises.

When we feel better than someone else because we are smarter or have more power or more money, that feeling is based on something external. The book describes this as “object-based” power.

That is very interesting because as soon as you lose that object, then who are you? If you lose the money or you meet someone smarter, how do you feel? Light Bulb Moment, isn’t it?

Silence is one of the best ways to get in touch with your true self. Being in silence and not reacting to everything has helped me meditate on what my ego “wants to do” versus what my true-self “should do.” Of course, I forget about this sometimes, especially when someone does something I don’t like.

I read this book when I was in the process of moving the first time to Upstate NY in 1997. At that moment I was not working, and I was spending much time at home; time to think and meditate. I can say those years were the happiest years of my life. We had NOTHING!

We didn’t own a house, we only had one car, we didn’t have any money in the bank, I wore clothes and shoes from bargain stores, our dining-out was pizza, and I used coupons to buy everything. Well, we had our true-selves, and we were delighted. I have videos and videos of those times, and I can see the pure potentiality in all of us.

I encourage you to read this book. Cheers to your “True-Self”!

Aixa G. López, P. E. is a Consultant, Leadership Development, Digital Marketing, Organizational Process Improvement living in the Elmira, New York Area. She is a strategically minded, analytical Industrial Engineer with 27+ years of experience providing operations management, organizational process improvement, leadership & team development, and digital marketing. She has been recognized for improving organizational effectiveness and efficiency through leadership, aligning business processes to realize cost savings and revenue growth. She’s an industrial engineer who entered the field because of her passion for fixing things. As a columnist for CNY Latino, Aixa shares with the readers this passion and the lessons she has learnt along the way.

Boost Your Cultural IQ

September 2019
Vecinos: information and advice for our American communities

by Germán Velasco

Is there something innately human about being able to understand something faster, more clearly and more deeply? I began to look into Cultural Intelligence (abbreviated CQ) and found myself reading texts from psychology, anthropology and sociology. These disciplines — to different degrees — all study culture’s influence on human beings. Delving into these studies quickly became a fascinating adventure for me.

At this point, I can attest to the fact that CQ is true intelligence and, perhaps, the most useful form of intelligence there is. It is accessible to all. We can be smarter if we want. To understand CQ, first it is important to understand the impact of “culture.” Imagine for a moment that a culture is a transparent bubble, invisible to the eyes, but real. The purpose of this bubble is to group people together, no matter where they are. This bubble has no specific shape or size.

As an example, let’s talk about a bubble that groups the female teens in a school. Now, let’s imagine another bubble grouping the boys from that same school. If you have lived in these bubbles in your own life, you remember that in your teenage bubble you and your friends had your own ways of expressing yourselves; you had your own jokes, keywords, and stories that nobody else understood.

A person can be part of the bubble called “men” and, at the same time, belong to a larger bubble called “nationality” – all the while also belonging to other smaller bubbles such as bubbles for the place where he works, the sport he likes, and so on. This man’s bubbles make him see life a little or even much more differently than does his wife, who sees life from within the “women” bubble. Yet both share a worldview from the perspective of the “nationality” and the “parents” bubbles that they have in common.

How precise would our thinking be if we could ascertain what someone from another bubble sees? But how difficult this is, given that we don’t know the codes for that other bubble.

The point of this bubble exercise is to illustrate that our vision of reality—almost inescapably—will have to be different to some extent depending upon our point of view. That is, the bubble of culture influences our vision just as if that invisible membrane had the distorting effect of a lens.

Cultural Intelligence is the ability to see reality from one bubble, jump to the next bubble, see reality from there and then perhaps from other bubbles, and be able to accomplish this feat in an instant. Imagine the difference in perspective between the person with highly developed CQ versus the person who only looks at the world from one point of view. Those who have lived in different situations at different stages of their lives tend to develop better CQ. That’s why I highly recommend reaching out beyond your comfort zone: meet new people, change jobs, live in different places, learn another language, or change professions. All this change will help you to build a higher CQ. And this world needs people—especially leaders—with high CQ.

German Velasco is the Executive Director of La Mano Amiga, an educational nonprofit organization based in Colorado.

Farm Sanctuary Hoe Down

by Linda Lebedovych
Provided by Linda DeStefano
Translated into Spanish by Rob English

I had the privilege of attending my third annual “Hoe Down” at the Farm Sanctuary at Watkins Glen, N.Y. – a meeting of like- minded animal lovers, vegetarians and vegans from all over the country. The co-founder of this sanctuary is Gene Bauer, an iconic figure who was selling vegan hot dogs out of a VW Van at Grateful Dead concerts before “vegan” became a common word.

The event includes music and dancing.

It also includes presentations from authors, under-cover slaughter house workers, medical doctors, environmental experts and other movers and shakers changing the world views on “meat eating”. Three authors presented to us; Nil Zacharias (author of Eat for the Planet), Carol Adams (author of The Sexual Politics of Meat, Living Among Meat Eaters and Protest Kitchen) and Katie Gillespie (The Cow with Ear Tag #1389 Aad other Stories). I’d love to talk about some of these lectures at PAR’s next vegan social. Needless to say, I left with some new books.

The session opened with speaker Dominick Thompson, a gentleman of color who spent 3 years in prison for drug selling. He grew up in a poorer community which he called a food desert. In other words, his community only had fast food and convenience stores within its 2 miles radius so there was almost no access to vegetables and fruits since he didn’t own a car. When he was in prison, he began to empathize with caged animals who were put in cages having done nothing wrong. He began trading his meat portions in prison for the vegetable portion out of respect for these helpless animals. This didn’t slow him down from becoming a “ripped” athlete. Upon release he helped his community with food choices and founded a clothing company called crazies and weirdos. His T-shirts have the logo: “Eat What Elephants Eat”. He provides nutrition counseling to less affluent communities and to anyone interested in the vegan lifestyle. He’s also listed by VEG NEWS as one of the seven vegan men of color to follow on Instagram.

One of the youngest activists is Genesis Butler, a 13-year-old girl of color who spoke to us about her epiphany while eating chicken nuggets and how she came to reject the typical American diet at age 10. She’s learning how to protest events and becoming one of the youngest public advocates in the media. She is influencing school children and adults alike.

These are just some of the highlights, and the priceless experience includes meeting so many other like- minded folks and the lovely vegan meals which were beyond delicious and “animal time” touring and interacting with the hundreds of saved farm animals.

Social justice for all is always on the forefront for which this group is committed.

The next event is the Celebration for the Turkeys on Saturday, November 16 with the feeding of the turkey ceremony, and the lovely vegan Thanksgiving Dinner along with a silent auction and more presentations. See FarmSanctuary.org for details and more events.

In the Syracuse area, there are many opportunities to try vegan food and socialize with others, such as through People for Animal Rights or Syracuse Vegan Meetup or VeganCNY.

Linda Lebedovych is a member of People for Animal Rights (PAR). PAR can be reached at people4animalrightscny@gmail.com or (315)488-PURR (8 a.m. – 10 p.m.) or P.O. Box 15358, Syracuse, NY 13215-0358.
Reach Syracuse Vegan Meetup at https://www.meetup.com/syracusevegans/
Reach VeganCNY at vegancny.org

Behind a great man (Part 2)…

A Moment of Reflection

by Lilia M. Fiallo

This article is a continuation of the previous edition…

It is important to think, to decide what you desire, before embarking on a change of life, since if things are not what you dreamed possible, it is impossible to turn back and regain the time spend. And what is worse, the aftermath of a defeat cannot be deleted.

It is matter of dignity and self-respect.

Respect is a sense of great value among human beings. This sentiment follows a host of factors as fundamental in coexistence, that together with the intelligence, understanding, peace, harmony, are constant in everyday life.

Prepare yourself to stand out and be a wonderful spouse! The father said to his daughter Alein, when he surprised her, talking animatedly with a youngster. How far was he from reality in those words?

Perhaps, what he wanted to say was:

Study, progress and project yourself towards a bright future. Love yourself so you can appreciate what you currently have. Do not throw away your youth in the trash, because at such a young age, she could not take care of a home and have family.

With maturity, responsibility and aplomb, placing the feet on the ground, everyone can decide to project his/her life with someone who deserves his or her company.

He longs for his future, a woman with morals and values, intelligent and outstanding accompanying it forever.

The standards of urbanity by common sense enhances self-esteem, to apply in public, worth prudence, certain rules of etiquette, glamour and protocol, get to know them. How prepared are you to ride beside your husband, before thousands of looks? You never know the future and the turns that life takes. What if tomorrow, time surprises you as a spouse of an outstanding public figure?

Nobody is born knowledgeable. An advisor of image and take note of the rules that you must follow for certain events, for example, if he does not take you by the hand, do not intend to take him by the arm. If he walks with his arms down, calm and serene, and does not seek your hand do not attempt to crab him by the arm. Walk quietly, as if you were at home.

It is noticeable positive or negative change that a man who committed his life suffers. In the eyes of known and unknown, not indifferent passes, that scruffy character, without visiting a hairdresser, with dirty shoes, detached trouser hem, dirty suit and his tanned shirt.

And how is she now? Nothing to do! it seems that she was disappointed of her new life. Always in slippers, with unkempt hair, wears clothes that looks good, leaves much what to think, with a face that produces compassion and many questions.
How important is it what we decide to look forward to in life? Don´t need to be rich or poor, with a beautiful childhood or otherwise, don’t´ need anything like that. You need love yourselves, to value and respect yourself, and to give your best to the people surrounding us.

That your partner is regarded and admired by how well he or she looks. That your hearts beat of love, understanding and peace. To let God see, that there is a great man behind a great woman: You!
That is the meaning of life, giving the best of ourselves. If you are still thinking about it, it is better that to continue contemplating a fantastic bachelorhood.

Lilia M. Fiallo was born in Bogotá, Colombia, where, between tasks and free time, she found a place to write about subjects, somehow forgotten by others. With gold letters engraved in her memory, she began her working life, in the heart of the technical part, of the air traffic control of her native country. In the midst of aeronautical phraseology and codes, the world of aviation gave her one of the highest experiences, because of the precision required by this craft, where a single mistake could cost many lives. It is there, where in her concern to communicate her ideas, she begins to write with dedication, themes a little relegated by society, the Church and the State. Discovering a truth that nobody wants to talk about, but much more real and every day, than it seems. It is thus, as it appears, her first work, “Parir por parir”. You can find her book at for sale in Amazon and if you want to connect with her send her an email to lilianim2003@yahoo.com.

Our Closest Star

by Nilsa Ricci

Summertime – a word that rings loud with excitement and warm promises for many people. For those living in Central New York, summer means that the snow is 100% gone (knock on wood).

In all the fun happening under the sun, it can be easy to put a pause on health precautions. However, the sun is unforgiving and our decisions can have lasting health consequences.

In the United States, melanoma of the skin is the fifth leading cause of cancer.1,2 In 2019, it is estimated that there will be 96,480 new cases of melanoma and that 7,230 people will die.2,3 Compared to Caucasians, Hispanics are less often diagnosed with melanoma.4 However, a higher percentage of Hispanics diagnosed with melanoma die, often because they are diagnosed too late.4 This discrepancy is due, in part, to the lack of: medical care access among many Hispanics, awareness about the dangers of unprotected sun exposure, and adequate skin protection.4

While there are several different types of melanomas,5 ultraviolet (UV) radiation is a major risk factor for most of them.1 The most harmful UV rays from the sun are UVA and UVB rays.6 UVA rays can indirectly damage the DNA of skin cells and are associated with skin damage (like wrinkles), as well as with some skin cancers.6 UVB rays can directly damage the DNA of skin cells, causing most sunburns and skin cancers.6 Since UV rays are strongest from 10am – 4pm, try to limit your exposure to direct sunlight especially during these hours.7

Sunscreen, when used as directed, is able to reflect or absorb most of the harmful sunrays.8 The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using sunscreens with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 (filters ~97% of UVB rays), broad-spectrum coverage (protects against UVA and UVB rays), and resistance against water.8 It is recommended to use the “teaspoon rule” when applying sunscreen: 1 total teaspoon of sunscreen for the face/head/neck, 1 teaspoon for each upper extremity, 2 total teaspoons for the front and back torso, and 2 teaspoons for each lower extremity.8 Sunscreen should be applied 15-30 minutes before sun exposure, reapplied every two hours (at least), and reapplied after sweating or water exposure (even if the sunscreen is labeled as “water resistant”).8

Everyone should self-examine skin spots and moles for the following ABCDE features9:

A = Asymmetry: One half is different from the other half.

B = Borders: Undefined or irregular boundaries.

C = Color: Varied pigmentation that may include shades of black, brown, tan, red, white, or blue.

D = Diameter: Larger than 6 millimeters across (although some melanomas may be smaller).

E = Evolving: Looks different from your other spots/moles or is changing in size, shape, or color.

Schedule an appointment with your doctor if you notice any of these features. Remember that early detection and treatment can improve the rate of survival.

Let’s enjoy our closest star in a safe way. Happy summer!

1. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/risk-factors-for-the-development-of-melanoma?fbclid=IwAR2CISU_mM8pM0GQT8i48oHNiekT0GZoXks1YmKbkQv5-i1lo3gVmOhsVGM#H5112797
2. https://www.aimatmelanoma.org/about-melanoma/melanoma-stats-facts-and-figures/
3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30620402
4. https://www.skincancer.org/prevention/are-you-at-risk/hispanic
5. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/pathologic-characteristics-of-melanoma?sectionName=Nodular%20melanoma&search=types%20of%20melanoma&topicRef=15806&anchor=H11&source=see_link&fbclid=IwAR1cEzlfmKdXWJ_TmrPDSMvrLHWa8z4xWeXZeXqOY8_sU67Ct9DhhzgMRy0#H11
6. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/radiation-exposure/uv-radiation/uv-radiation-what-is-uv.html
7. https://www.cancer.org/latest-news/choose-the-right-sunscreen.html
8. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/selection-of-sunscreen-and-sun-protective-measures?search=sunscreen&sectionRank=2&usage_type=default&anchor=H11208302&source=machineLearning&selectedTitle=1~150&display_rank=1#H11208302
9. https://www.aad.org/public/spot-skin-cancer/learn-about-skin-cancer/detect/what-to-look-for

Nilsa Ricci was born in Florida to a Colombian father and a Peruvian mother. She graduated in 2016 from Columbia University in the City of New York with a B.A. in Neuroscience and Behavior. She is currently a medical student at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. She is on the executive board of the school’s chapter of the Latino Medical Student Association (LMSA).

Buying Produce In-Season- How to find A Farmer’s Market Near you!


Choosing fruits and vegetables that are in season is a great way to stretch food dollars. In general, locally and regionally grown produce is less expensive than produce from out of state.

  • Food that doesn’t have to travel long distances may retain quality longer.
  • Out of season fresh fruits and vegetables may cost more due to transportation and storage requirements.

The freshest, in-season food can best be found at your local farmer’s markets. There are many benefits to buying fresh, nutritious, delicious and locally grown foods at a farmer’s market. Here are some of the benefits:

  • The produce is picked at the peak of freshness, flavor and nutrition.
  • Knowing where your food comes from.
  • The taste is so much better.
  • Farmers offer some great recommendations on how to prepare fresh produce.
  • Purchasing fruits and vegetables from the markets directly supports the farmer.
  • Consumers anticipate what’s coming in season.
  • Buying in-season, local produce connects the community with the environment.

Use your EBT benefits and Farmer’s Market Nutrition Program coupons at participating farmers markets. Vendors will post signs to share what type of coupon benefits they accept.

In Syracuse, both the Downtown Farmers Market on Tuesdays (8-1 pm) and CNY Regional Market on Park St. (Thursdays and Saturdays 7 am- 2 pm) accepts EBT benefits and Farmer’s Market Nutrition Program benefits. Stop by the Visitor center to redeem benefits for special tokens that can be used at the Regional market all summer.

Visit our nutrition educators from Cornell Cooperative Extension at the CNY Regional Market on Park St. each Thursday this summer between 11 AM-1:30PM. Sample seasonal produce recipes, learn tips to select, purchase, prepare and store produce picks of the week!

In addition to farmer’s markets, you can find fresh, local produce at road side stands or CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture).

Try this tasty, low cost recipe for fresh sweet corn! No cooking is needed!

Fresh Corn Salad

 Makes 6 – 3/4 cup servings

5 ears of fresh corn, kernels cut off (do not cook)

1 red onion diced

1 green pepper, finely diced

3 Tbsp.  olive oil

3 Tbsps. apple cider vinegar

1/2 tsp Salt

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1/3 cup fresh basil leaves- cut into thin strips

  1. Toss the corn kernels in a large bowl with the onion, green pepper, olive oil, vinegar,

salt and pepper.

  1. Just before serving, toss in the fresh basil.
  2. ENJOY!!!