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You are an outreach worker in a town heavily populated by undocumented individuals. An individual in the community brings to your attention a friend of his who has been exhibiting concerning behaviors such as frequently crying and not wanting to leave his residence, and it appears he has lost a significant amount of weight. The individual brings you to meet Fernando, a sixty-nine-year-old Hispanic male, who resides with his wife. Both individuals are undocumented. Upon assessment, you realize that Fernando presents as disheveled, has a flat affect, and does not make frequent eye contact with you. Upon discussing some services which Fernando would be eligible for, he quickly dismisses the help, citing lack of finances and fear that he will be judged as weak. How do you engage Fernando so he feels comfortable with the services which he could utilize? What barriers to mental health, health care, and social work services do you see here?

In this scenario, it is important to make Fernando aware of the services available to him and leave him with the information needed to access those services. You would also need to develop a rapport with him so that he will trust that he can confide in you and get help. Counseling Fernando to deal with his depression is also key, and considering his demographics, emphasizing spirituality and involving his wife in those conversations would be helpful.

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For Fernando, I would use a two-pronged approach. First, he must be assured that despite his immigration status, he can still make use of social services without fear of legal consequences. This may mean a counselor or social worker would have to establish a relationship with Fernando and his wife to develop rapport and trust. Developing trust will also be important in taking away his fear of appearing weak for seeking help, which is a common stigma Hispanic men face. Over the course of visits, I would make Fernando aware of the services available to him while also discussing his depression and mental health to address strategies that would be helpful to him. Aside from making him aware of services that are available to him and providing him with literature that will give him the information needed to take advantage of said services, the aspect of mental health counseling would be at the crux of my course of action, since his mental health is negatively affecting his physical health and social life.

In this case, it is important to remember that every culture has its own customs, beliefs, and traditions. Most cultures have some form of similarity of one thing or another. Social workers and counselors need to understand that all cultures as different, no matter how similar they may seem from an outsider perspective. They must be prepared to counsel a variety of different people with a variety of different backgrounds, beliefs, and cultures. Different practices and strategies need to be used when counseling a multicultural clientele.

Spirituality and religiosity play a major role in the lives of many Hispanic people. This is not to say that all Hispanics value spirituality and religion. They play a major role in the Hispanic culture due to the long history that Hispanic individuals have with the feeling of community within their lives. Speaking with Fernando and his wife to understand their religious beliefs and the role their extended religious community is playing in their lives would be beneficial, since this could be something helpful for Fernando to lean on during his struggles and something his wife could also support. However, a counselor or social worker needs to be able to realize that just because a culture values a certain practice, it does not mean that all individuals within that culture will enjoy the same activities involving that practice or theory. If neither Fernando nor his wife is spiritual, it would be fruitless to emphasize turning toward faith to address Fernando’s depression.

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