What is depression and how do I treat it?

by Adrián Martínez

Mood can affect many things in your life. When you feel down or hopeless, you might also notice changes in sleep, appetite, concentration, or energy. You might feel less interested in everyday activities or hobbies, or you might feel like you are moving more slowly. At your worst, you may also feel like you want to hurt yourself or end your life. If you are regularly feeling any combination of these, you might have depression. You may be inclined to dismiss it or let it continue because you think it will eventually get better. You may think that seeking help is admitting weakness, and you would not be alone in that mentality. Despite whatever you have learned from your family or culture, depression is an illness that is both remarkably common and treatable.

The rate of depression among Latinos in the U.S. is about that of the general population, which is about 7% (1). Among the Latino ethnicities, Puerto Ricans and Cubans are most likely to experience depressive symptoms. Within the same ethnicities, people born in the U.S., second-generation immigrants, or people living longer in the U.S. are more likely to report depression. Compared to white Americans, Latinos with mental health disorders are much less likely to seek mental health specialists for care. Furthermore, undertreated depression is up to four times higher in Latinos without health insurance compared to Latinos with health insurance (2). Needless to say, the Latino population has multiple barriers preventing access to treatments for this common condition, not the least of which are social stigma and lack of insurance.

If you think you may be depressed or are experiencing any persistent issues with stress, anxiety, or substance use, consider going to a mental health provider for help. Your primary care provider would be good to see initially to start medication or to get a referral for a psychiatrist or therapist. Keep in mind that, with few exceptions, what you say to your mental health provider is confidential. Your relationship with your provider should be one of trust and an understanding that he or she is there to help. Remember that there are plenty of options for medication and therapy, so you should not give up if the first treatment you try does not work. If you would like to search for providers on your own, you can go to findtreatment.samhsa.gov or call the National Treatment Referral Helpline (1-800-662-4357) for guidance. If you are feeling suicidal, go to your local hospital, call 911, or call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255).

1. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2017). Results from the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Detailed Tables. Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUH-DetTabs-2016/NSDUH-DetTabs-2016.pdf
2. Wassertheil-Smoller, Sylvia et al. “Depression, anxiety, antidepressant use, and cardiovascular disease among Hispanic men and women of different national backgrounds: results from the Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos” Annals of epidemiology vol. 24,11 (2014): 822-30.

Adrian Martinez is a Puerto Rican born in California and raised in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Florida. He graduated in 2014 from the University of Florida with a B.S. in Biology and is currently a fourth-year medical student attending the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. He is on the executive board of the school’s chapter of the Latino Medical Student Association (LMSA) and will be pursuing a career in psychiatry.

Healing the Soul- My experience in a Temazcal

by David Alfredo Paulino

Mentors have an uncanny ability to sense our state of being. Perhaps we project it more openly than we care to admit. In my case my mentor, Armando, left a post on my Facebook wall checking up on me and telling me that I would always be welcome in his home. Once I saw that, I remembered our countless conversations about how beautiful Mexico was. Those memories spurred me to reach out and ask him when I could visit. Plus, I felt I needed to get out of New York City for a while. Physically I needed a breather but much more importantly my soul needed to rest. With Armando’s track record, I knew that I would need to get out of my comfort zone; boy was I right.

I was nervous boarding the plane, mainly because Armando had sent a list of expectations that he had for himself, one of those expectations was that he wanted to create a space where I would have intense dreams for the duration of my stay. The night before my flight I had a dream with my cousin whom had passed away three years ago. It made me think twice about going through with the trip, but I could not let that hold me back as I try to be a man of my word.

As soon as I arrived in Mexico City, I bought a ticket to his town called Tepoztlan, it is known as the birthplace of the serpent god Quetzalcoatl. He picked me up at the bus stop. He was as happy as I remembered, with a warm smile and an even warmer heart. Armando’s spirit never ceases to amaze me. I got into his car and he began to show me Tepoztlan and it was marvelous to say the least. The town is situated at the heart of the Tepoztlan valley with the shrine of Tepozteco, dedicated to the god of pulque Tepoztecatl. I was in awe as soon as I saw the town and the mountains served as a backdrop to an already magical place. We arrived to his two story home and as soon as he opened his door he went directly to the wine rack and started pouring a cup for me and for himself. After three hours of drinking and catching up we decided to call it a night, he showed me to my room and told me, “we have a long day tomorrow, we have a ritual to go to…do you wish to partake?” I immediately said “of course!”.

It was around 9:00 am that I woke up to a knock on my door, “David, there’s coffee downstairs, get ready so we can head out”. I got up, brushed my teeth, took a shower, drank coffee and then we got in his car and headed for a village called San Andreas where the ritual would take place. I was told minimal things about the ritual, that I would sweat profusely and that it would be hard on my body and my ability to endure an extreme environment. We arrived to the home of our spiritual guide, we spoke and ate one of the most delicious pastry I have ever eaten, a tamale made of pineapple. I fell in love with it!. After we ate, the guide told us to take bits and pieces of the outer shell of the tamale which is like hay, and make knots. The knots would represent any negative things that people that we love have ever said and did to us. Although they might not have done it out of malice; it still had an impact on us. After that, we followed her to a nearby fire that was heating a pile of volcanic rock. We had reached the Temazcal. A Temazcal is a type of sweat lodge used by many pre-Hispanic indigenous tribes of Mesoamerica. It was used as a place to heal the sick and for women to give birth as well. Now it is mainly used as a place to cleanse the mind, body, and spirit. In order to enter the Temazcal we needed to throw our straws into the fire and walk around the fire. Following that, she blew incense all over our bodies before entering the Temazcal. Little did I know that a Temazcal would be just what my body needed.

As we entered we were directed to a tarp on the floor so that we may sit. We were creating a circle around a little hole in the ground where the volcanic rock would be placed on. Once we were all seated the guide began by introducing herself and instructed us to introduce ourselves and say why we were there. It was a good thing that I was not first, as I needed time to prepare my Spanish. Once it was my turn I stated who I was and that I was here in order to heal my traumas and to discover them at the same time. The ritual had 4 phases each dedicated to one of the directions of the Earth, north, south, east, and west. I began to reflect with the north phase, I could already feel the space beginning to pick up steam. We were all concentrated on our breaths, our chants, and singing. With each new phase, we continued to focus on our breaths, our chants, and our singing with the heat becoming more intense and thus pushing our bodies more and more. When we got to the last phase I was a mess, at this point laying down because of how uncomfortable I was, and I started to lose feeling in my hands. After our last session I asked the guide about it and she told me, “You have no goal to fully grasp on, you are aimlessly scrambling never fully dedicating yourself to one thing. Once you have a goal and direction then you will be where you want to be.” I listened silently trying to absorb everything she said. When we ended the ritual, we headed outside to douse ourselves with cold water.

The cold water felt really good, my body was still affected by the experience, I felt light and lethargic. There was food prepared so we began to eat and getting to know the others that participated in the ritual. After we left and returned home we decided to rest because of the effect of the Temazcal. I slept profoundly and my body felt great. Armando and I spoke about our experiences and what the guide told me. I told him I left with a clearer mind of what I have to do. He asked me what it was and I told him I’d rather not say it just yet.

My trip to Mexico was a magical one that I will always remember. Mexico’s beauty and rich history was simply enchanting and it left me desiring to see much more. I will return to Mexico and would love to experience more of it, it taught me many things, above all I learned about patience and endurance. The anxiety I felt was lifted due to what I learned during my trip. I encourage others to visit a new place by yourself, you never know what you might learn about yourself.

My name is David Alfredo Paulino. I graduated from SUNY Cortland with a international studies major with a concentration in Global Political Systems and my minors are Anthropology, Latin American Studies, and Asia and the Middle East. I was born in Manhattan, NYC, but I currently live in the Bronx with my Mother, little sister, and Stepfather. Although I was born here, most of my fondest memories come from my frequent visits to the Dominican Republic, and always being there. I even stayed there for a year. Due to my constant going back and forth, I grew to love the atmosphere there and sometimes I yearn for it more than the actual city.

How to solve the opioid crisis

by Maximilian Eyle

The prohibition of opioids in the United States has been raging for almost a century. The Anti-Heroin Act of 1924 began the criminalization of importing and possessing opioids. Now, after countless people have been imprisoned and an immeasurable amount of money and resources have spent, have the opioids disappeared? No. On the contrary, we are in the midst of an opioid epidemic. Each year, the number of fatal opioid overdoses rises, with the CDC’s estimates for 2017 reaching a record 72,000 deaths. Let us be very clear: these are preventable deaths. Through legislative change and the implementation of proven harm reduction strategies, we have the option to adopt a drug policy based on compassion and evidence-based results rather than on punishment and propaganda.

The presence of opioids has become common throughout the United States. Some come from the black market and have been produced illegally and without government regulation, while others are prescribed and produced by registered pharmaceutical companies. A common misconception is that overdoses only stem from illegally produced opioids. In reality, a full 40% of these overdoses are due to prescription opioids. Incredibly, more than a third of Americans used a legally prescribed opioid in 2015. This number does not include illegal opioid use. This brings us to our first recommendation in the fight against opioid overdoses: Narcan should be in every household across America.

What is Narcan? Also known as Naloxone, this drug blocks the absorption of opioids at the receptor-level. Opioids effect our respiration, which is why someone suffering from an overdose may stop breathing. By pausing the effects of the opioids in the body, Narcan saves lives by restoring the person’s breathing. It is FDA approved and can be administered easily via a nasal spray. Even a child can do it. It was intentionally developed for use by those without medical training who may arrive at the scene first, such as friends or family. Narcan is not a replacement for calling 911, but can save the person’s life while EMTs are on the way.

Just as we have a fire extinguisher in every building and house to protect us in the event of a fire, we should also have Narcan readily available at all times. Harm reduction centers will often provide free Narcan kits and training to those who want it, and an increasing amount of other institutions are doing the same. The New York City government has even started distributing Narcan through a range of channels as part of its HealingNYC initiative.

Raising the availability and awareness of Narcan in our society is a powerful anti-overdose strategy. But legislative change must also be brought about if we truly hope to disrupt the opioid epidemic. Prohibition is a primary driver of overdoses and actually exacerbates the harm that these drugs can cause. We know that banning opioids does not make them disappear. On the contrary, it drives their use and production underground which is far more dangerous. Users do not know the content, strength, or dosage of what they are ingesting. Imagine if every time you needed cough syrup – it came in an unmarked bottle and was always either stronger or weaker than the last time you bought it. Obviously, the chances of you accidentally taking too much would skyrocket. Alcohol is also a potentially dangerous drug, but we learned in the 1920s that prohibiting it only made things worse.

Clearly, some form of regulated access would be preferable to the current system. This has already been tried and proven to work in many other countries, particularly in Europe. Switzerland’s program has gained considerable attention as a success story. Starting in the 1990s, “Zurich became the first place in the world where therapy programs handed out heroin prescriptions to heavy and long-term opiate users for whom other substitutes wouldn’t work.” As a result, the rate of new users, new HIV infections, overdoses, and other problems associated with opioid use all plummeted.

It is up to us as voters and individuals to drive this change forward in the fight against opioid overdoses. The steps are relatively straightforward: Equip yourself with Narcan and learn how to administer it (it’s very simple). Vote for candidates who support harm reduction measures and non-prohibitionist approaches to our drug policy. Getting “tough on drugs” has only made things worse – it’s time for compassion and pragmatic change. Lastly, support your local harm reduction centers. By tackling overdose prevention, HIV and HCV testing, sex education, syringe access, and more – these facilities do wonders for the communities they serve.

Maximilian Eyle is a native of Syracuse, NY and a graduate of Hobart and William Smith Colleges. He works as a media consultant and writes each month about a variety of issues for Spanish-language papers across New York State. Maximilian has a love of Hispanic culture and learned Spanish while living in Spain where he studied and worked as an English teacher. He can be contacted at maxeyle@gmail.com.

Fuel Up!

Fuel Up- Healthy School Lunches and Snacks!

It’s that time of the year again! Summer is coming to an end with the first day of school fast approaching. Focus on balance during September from cooking wholesome dinners to packing nutritious school lunches. A balanced eating plan includes whole grains, lean protein, low-fat dairy and colorful fruits and vegetables!

• Be mindful! Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables and focus on eating from all food groups.
• Eat slowly. You will be more likely to notice cues that let you know you’ve had enough to eat.
• Send the kids to school with food to keep them fueled and focused. Hard-cooked eggs, baked chicken, garbanzo beans, peas, or nuts are great protein choices that keep the brain and body energized.
• Don’t forget the veggies! Cherry tomatoes, cucumber slices, carrots and green beans are easy to snack on and full of fiber. Dip them in hummus, low-fat ranch, tzatziki, or plain Greek yogurt!
• Color your meal. Fruits make for a yummy addition to any lunch! Cherries, apple slices, pears or orange wedges are a delicious way to add nutrients and color to a meal.
• The brain needs grains! Children’s brains need energy from whole grains (pasta, bread, rice) to be focused and do well in school. Start the day with a whole wheat English muffin, oatmeal, whole grain bread or whole grain cereal. Add low or non-fat dairy for a high protein, high energy, nutrition packed meal.

Send your child to school knowing they are eating well. Try out these easy recipes as school lunches or afterschool snacks!

Veggie Pockets: Cut a whole wheat pita in half and let kids add their favorite veggies. Sprinkle with low-fat cheese and a dab of dressing!

Simple Pizzas: Top a whole wheat English muffin with sauce, chopped vegetables and low-fat mozzarella, then toast lightly for a mini pizza!

Brain Boosting Trail Mix: Toss together dried fruit, mixed nuts, cereal and popcorn in a snack-size bag. This makes a filling, healthy snack you can bring anywhere!

Roll-Ups: Spread peanut or almond butter on a whole wheat tortilla, add sliced strawberries, roll it up for strawberry roll-ups! Or, layer a tortilla with deli turkey, low-fat cheese and lettuce for a turkey roll-up!

Let the kids help! When kids help create their lunch or snacks, they are more likely to eat it. Be creative and save money at the same time. Try making your own snacks and limit processed ones that could be high in added sugars, sodium or saturated fat. Start school off on the right foot this year and give the family food you feel good about.

The Perils of Smoking

by Adrián Martínez

Many of you have heard through school, the news, or your medical providers that smoking has the potential to cause or worsen many diseases, ranging from heart and lung disease to various forms of cancer. In fact, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data indicate that smoking can significantly increase risk of developing heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes, which are among the leading causes of death for Latino people (1). With this in mind, it is understandable why healthcare providers are encouraging their patients to quit smoking. Unfortunately, the Latino population has lower access to health insurance than white Americans, which means they have less access to healthcare providers and the treatments that may be offered to help quit smoking.

According to surveys from the United States Census Bureau, smoking rates vary among the Latino subpopulations. About one in five Puerto Ricans and Cubans admit to cigarette smoking, which is about twice the rate of Central and South Americans; among all groups, men are more likely to smoke daily than women (2). This can reflect more social acceptance of smoking in those groups with higher rates, which in itself can result in more difficulty for people in those groups to quit. Part of the process of quitting involves avoiding environments in which you might be more likely to smoke a cigarette. If you are surrounded by people who smoke, it is much harder to avoid the temptation of smoking. Surround yourself with people who can support you in your efforts to quit, and encourage your loved ones to quit alongside you.

What methods are there to quit smoking? Besides attempting to do so on your own, you have a few options from which to choose. Nicotine replacement therapy includes nicotine gum, patches, lozenges, inhalers, and nasal sprays. Other treatments include the medicines varenicline and bupropion, both of which reduce cravings for nicotine and have other helpful effects. All these medications come with their own side effects, which you should discuss with your healthcare provider. Do not be discouraged if you are unable to quit using one of the medications; quitting is a process that requires effort and persistence. If you are interested in quitting, make an appointment with your primary care provider or call 1-866-NY-QUITS (1-866-697-8487) for guidance and support.

1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vital Signs: Leading Causes of Death, Prevalence of Diseases and Risk Factors, and Use of Health Services Among Hispanics in the United States—2009–2013. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 2015;64(17):469–78.

2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Disparities in Adult Cigarette Smoking—United States, 2002-2005 and 2010-2013. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 2016;65(30).

Adrian Martinez is a Puerto Rican born in California and raised in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Florida. He graduated in 2014 from the University of Florida with a B.S. in Biology and is currently a fourth-year medical student attending the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. He is on the executive board of the school’s chapter of the Latino Medical Student Association (LMSA) and will be pursuing a career in psychiatry.


Film reviewed by Linda DeStefano
Translated into Spanish by Rob English

Syracuse Vegans Meetup Group organized a showing of EATING YOU ALIVE so I went to see what it was about. This excellent film held my attention because it included many personal stories. Several people told how they or a loved one was very ill with a chronic disease – some even to the point of being told they would die soon. Most received no useful advice from their physicians so had to discover on their own that a plant-based, whole foods diet could literally save them. This film was very upbeat because it had so many happy endings. For example, his doctor told an elderly man he would die in a month or so from cancer and that the doctor could do anything for him. After a year on a plant-based, whole foods diet, the man recovered and walked into the office of the astonished doctor.

Besides these recovery stories, several physicians, vegan chefs, a pharmacist, an actor and others were interviewed. They spoke about the lack of nutrition education in medical school, the seductive power of food ads, the scarcity of preventive medicine in the U.S. and the restorative power of healthy food. Chefs provided a few recipes.

A very brief segment showed the horrific abuse of animals raised for food. Another brief segment told of the environmental damage caused by animal agriculture, such as the methane emissions from cows.

For more information, read HOW NOT TO DIE by Michael Greger, M.D. It also is helpful to try out a new way of eating (or stick with it once you’ve tried it) by eating with others.

Consider joining Syracuse Vegans Meetup Group. Contact Marybeth Fishman, mfishman4282@gmail.com or call (315) 729-7338. You can find the group on Facebook, Instagram, and on the Meetup.com website.

Also contact Linda DeStefano at People for Animal Rights, P.O.Box 15358, Syracuse 13215-0358, (315) 488-PURR (7877) between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. or people4animalrightscny@gmail.com or see our website at peopleforanimalrightgsofcny.org Ask for a sample of our newsletter, our membership brochure, and/or recipes. I also can make a copy for you of the 16 page report from Kaiser-Permanente (a large Health Maintenance Organization) called “The Plant-based Diet: A Healthier Way to Eat.” The HMO can save money by preventing health problems in their patients so this tells me that they think a plant-based diet really is good preventative medicine.

Emotional Intelligence and Soul Mate

Using Emotional Intelligence to find our Soul Mate
by Tyrone Dixon
Copyright © July 2018
All Rights Reserved.
Translated into Spanish by: Nina Vergara

When it comes to romance many of us struggle with finding our soul mate. There are many variables to consider when discussing romantic relationships, and why two people may or may not be compatible. Or why we just can’t seem to find the “one.”

The first thing I would invite you to do is think of romantic relationships in terms of it being a science, as opposed to a Fairytale, which many of us grew up believing it is. You know the “knight in shiny armor” coming to save the “distraught princess,” and then both of them going on to “live happily ever after?”… Right.

True romance involves establishing a deeper connection with your partner through consistent behavior, which allows trust to be present for both parties, and a safe space to be comfortable in expressing oneself without fear of retaliation or judgment.

Are you starting to see why you should look at romance relationships as more science than Fairytale? If not, consider this fact; 50% of the time when we say we are ready for our soul mate, we are not in a spot to fully commit ourselves to the other person (we may be unemployed, going through financial hardship, depressed, not over our previous romantic relationship, etc.).

After working with several clients on past, present, and future relationships I was able to come up with a list of thing we can look for in an ideal romantic relationship:

1. Ideal partner – someone who has developed the skills to be with another person, and work on themselves at the same time. Once we feel we have found the ideal partner, the remaining characteristics on the list will let us know if the relationship can be transitioned to a deeper connection (soul mate).
2. Maturity – is this person able to take responsibility for their actions? Or are they always looking to place blame on others/circumstances?
3. Open and honest – can we talk to this person about difficult things? Are we comfortable sharing our deepest secrets with this person?
4. Integrity – does this person’s words and actions align?
5. Does this person challenge us to take calculated risks?
6. Respect for our goals – one partner’s goals or life vision does not exceed the others.
7. Are they committed to understanding us? – are they aware of what we have in common? Do they have an appreciation for our differences?
8. Unconditional acceptance – accepting us for who we are, and a willingness to continually strive for growth individually & together.

I invite you to use this list going forward when you are working to establish a romantic relationship. It can save both partners time, prevent highly stressful situations, and most of all help us to avoid heartbreak.

Peace and Love,

Tyrone Dixon works as a Certified Professional Coach in the Syracuse Community through his business ArozeThrough Concrete Coaching. He was born and raised on the South and West Sides of Syracuse. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from SUNY Buffalo. It is his pleasure to be a “writing contributor” for CNY Latino, and write about the topic of Emotional Intelligence (EI). He loves the City of Syracuse and believes that exposure to Emotional Intelligence can help change the direction of the individuals living in some of our “high poverty” areas. Can you imagine how much better our city would be if people were taught how to manage their feelings without hurting someone? Or if we could teach people to be proactive in identifying situations they are not comfortable in?.