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Bilingual Counselors In High Demand In Orlando Post Pulse

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Bilingual therapists are on standby for people in need of grief counseling following the Pulse massacre.

Hispanic Family Counseling has been busy counseling survivors and others affected, free of charge. The organization has 25 therapists that speak English, Spanish, Portuguese, Creole and French … and the group is adding staff.

About half of the Pulse victims were Puerto Rican. Hispanic Family Counseling’s Valeria Morales said providing counselors who are culturally competent is key.

“It’s very important for families, it’s just you feel more at ease and more comfortable talking to somebody in the language, somebody who understands your culture, it’s a lot easier to express yourself,” Morales said.

Since the tragedy, Morales said their therapists have been traveling to people’s homes. She said they’re in need of more funding to pay for the work they do. Hispanic Family Counseling is part of Somos Orlando- “We are Orlando” –a coalition of more than 40 groups coming together to provide a one-stop shop for Orlando’s Latino community in the wake of the Pulse nightclub shooting.

Counselors are providing crisis intervention at HFC’s Orlando and Kissimmee locations.

Mental health counselor Eva Pagán Hill is helping to kick off some bilingual support groups including one at The Center for the LGBT community. She said while things are changing, there’s still a stigma in the Latino community when it comes to getting mental health services.

“Many times you hear ‘we’re not crazy, why would I need mental health?’ I try, as a licensed mental health counselor, when I do presentations, I say you take your car to get a tune up to prevent problems, you go to a mental health counselor when you’re stressed or when you need some guidance to prevent bigger complications of whatever is stressing you,” Hill said.

Hill said many of the families are in burial mode and still in shock. She expects the need for mental health services will continue to grow in the weeks to come.