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Aquí, Between Us: What Do I Do if I’m Mexican and Don’t Feel Good Enough in School?

Don’t fear, Jackie is here! Welcome to Aquí, Between Us, a bi-weekly advice column created for your mental wealth. In this week’s installment, Jackie answers the following question from a reader: 

Q: I’m a Mexican in school and I don’t feel good enough. I want to give up because I’m depressed. What do I do?

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If you are the first one in your family to go to college, then possibly at some point in your academic journey you experienced self-sabotaging beliefs such as “I am not good enough,” “I am not smart enough,” “people will judge me because of my accent,” and so forth. 

Navigating academia itself can be challenging. Imagine navigating this space with additional environmental stressors of being the first one in the family to go to college, cultural assimilation, code-switching, and/or breaking generational cycles — these factors that may exacerbate symptoms related to mental health. 

I faced challenges through my trajectory of becoming a licensed therapist. I moved to the U.S. from Tijuana, Baja California when I was 12-years-old. I encountered feelings of defeat, disappointment, fear, failure, and even sometimes feeling like I am not a “good enough therapist.” While all feelings are valid, thoughts are not facts. What helped me get through these adversities was reaching out for support when I felt I couldn’t handle it myself. 

My questions for you is: do you struggle asking for help? 

If you answered yes, then probably asking for help wasn’t modeled by your caregivers. Some Latinx households view mental health concerns as a sign of weakness and avoid asking for help due to fear of being labeled as “loco” or “crazy.” 

Whether you are in grade school or pursuing a college degree, it’s important to discuss factors that influence academic achievement among Latinx students. Students who suffer from a mental illness can experience academic impairments. For example, an individual with depression may experience difficulty concentrating during class, impairing their ability to complete tasks, turn in assignments, and meet deadlines. Academic stressors that can impact your mental health may include bullying, cyberbullying, microaggressions, racial discrimination, unsupportive school staff, emotionally unavailable parents, language barriers, among others. 

Everyone’s academic journey looks different. For those individuals who are currently in school and are facing mental health challenges, I highly encourage you to advocate for yourself. Schools offer mental health services delivered by trained professional including school psychologists, social workers, and counselors. School-based mental health professionals can connect you with proper services and needed resources when mental health concerns are outside of their scope of practice. 

Here are examples of additional support you can receive from your academic institutions to achieve academic success and wellbeing:

  • Special testing accommodations
  • Homework and/or timeline extensions
  • Scholarships to support travel, academic purchases, housing, professional attire, etc.
  • Additional office hours, tutoring, or supplemental instruction

Don’t suffer in silence. Let’s collectively normalize seeking for help when mental health concerns begin to get in the way of pursuing your academic and personal goals.

Sending you all my best wishes on your healing journey.

Very best, 

Jacqueline Garcia, LCSW, @therapylux

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