A Champion for Mental Health

by Independence Blue Cross

By embracing the diversity of its customers, associates and community, Independence Blue Cross encourages an open dialogue and creative problem-solving that leads to true health care innovation.

That’s one reason why Independence sponsored The Welcoming Center’s Solas 2021 event in March, honoring Dr. José Ramón Fernández-Peña, president of the American Public Health Association.

The company’s commitment to the diverse members of our community is also a reason that Independence created the Know Your Mind Campaign and partnered with NBC10, Telemundo 62, and other media outlets to connect people to sources of mental health support. The message of Know your Mind and Cuida Tu Salud Mental is that mental health is an integral part of overall health and that there is no shame in seeking help. If you are suffering from anxiety or depression, you are not alone. Talking to your primary care provider is a good first step.

Helping Independence tell the story are bilingual mental health experts both within the company and in the greater community. The programming on Telemundo 62 from has featured Spanish speakers discussing mental health issues affecting the community and how to boost one’s resilience or to seek care if needed.

“Mental health affects physical health,” says Patricia Guerra-Garcia, MD, Vice President, Medical Management and Medical Policy at Independence, and a native of Peru. “Taking care of chronic conditions is difficult when mental health conditions have not been treated.”

Stress on the Immigrant Community

In the immigrant community, there is the stress of being away from your country, noted Mexican-born Dr. Luis Ramírez, DSW, LCSW, on T62’s Sunday Enfoque program. “They don’t know what is going to happen. Many are essential workers who are among those most exposed, but with their financial situation, they can’t stay home, so it affects their physical and mental health.”

“Many immigrants are working 24 hours a day — they don’t have time to spend with family,” added Ramírez, aka Dr. Queerness, executive director of Ramírez Psychotherapy in Philadelphia. “I recommend finding ways to relieve stress. Participate in activities to feel better. Be with family, connect with the community. Take the opportunity to find a specialist who can help you.”

Born and raised in culturally diverse Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Suzanne ChuChian Chong, Ph.D., is a staff psychologist at Ursinus College. Dr. Chong uses her familiarity with immigration and acculturative processes in trauma-informed outreach programs for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. As part of the Know Your Mind program, she spoke to NBC’s Tracy Davidson following the Atlanta-area spa shootings that claimed the lives of six Asian women on March 25.

A Taboo Subject, Still

Despite the toll that violence has taken on some in the Asian community, mental health continues to be a taboo subject, particularly among the older generation, Chong said on the @Issue program.

“[Mental health] can be a scary and foreign topic to talk about,” Chong said. “I’m seeing the older Asian population approaching it with some skepticism. Part of it is the belief that we need to be strong and able to overcome whatever comes our way.”

On the other hand, Chong said she is seeing a change in the younger generation, who are more likely to take advantage of professional services to learn how to cope. “They are learning how to lean on others for support and build on the bonds of community, Chong says. “Building your skills of resilience is what mental health therapy is about.”

Whole Person Health

To effectively treat an individual, we must look at the whole person, according to Rodrigo Cerdá, MD, Vice President of Clinical Care Transformation at Independence.  Cerdá, who has experience in clinical care and health services research in the United States, United Kingdom, Brazil, Peru, and Botswana, works on collaborative approaches to bring health insurers, hospitals, and doctors together to improve access to well-coordinated, high-quality, and affordable health care for Independence members.

Activities such as exercise, cooking together and eating healthy foods are all ways to invest in your mental health, Cerdá told the T62 Enfoque audience. The mind-body connection is a strong one, and yet only 27 percent of Latinos with a mental health condition seek professional help. “Depression and anxiety can happen to anyone,” he said. “But if you don’t seek help, it’s impossible to get better.”

Visit ibx.com/knowyourmind for more information. During May, Mental Health Awareness Month, NBC10 and Telemundo 62 will host special programming for the Know Your Mind campaign. To view the program content, visit https://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/news/health/know-your-mind/ or https://www.telemundo62.com/especiales/cuida-tu-salud-mental/

This article was written by Independence Blue Cross for The Welcoming Center’s Spring 2021 newsletter.

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The Welcoming Center