Guest blog: A Mexican American experience leads to community healing

MHA Admin

Tue, 10/03/2023 – 17:49

by Antonio Hernandez

It’s hard to fit into a mold when you can’t identify it.

Growing up as a Mexican American in San Diego gave me an interesting set of struggles. I often felt I was never American enough here, but I was never Mexican enough when I went there. I was self-conscious of having an accent in both languages – not truly knowing if English or Spanish was my primary language. I couldn’t roll my R’s en español and had difficulty differentiating between the “sh” and “ch” sounds well into my teenage years, and I had cousins who referred to me as the “white boy” because I primarily spoke English. Even in sports, I enjoyed watching the English Premier League over Liga Mexicana but was a fierce Mexican national soccer team supporter.

Growing up three exits from the US-Mexico border was like standing at the edge of the shore while a wave was retreating back to the ocean. Your body feels like your legs are pulling you back to the infinite. That’s how I feel about being a Mexican American. My feet are firmly planted on this soil, but my heart beats to La Bamba.

Today, I am writing as a proud Mexican American cofounder of Soluna Wellness. We are an outpatient mental health facility challenging all stereotypes and traditional mental health methods. Soluna Wellness is for the people of the sun and the Zoot Suit Riots, and the immigrants and children of immigrants who celebrate the Fourth of July as our own tradition. We challenge society’s approach to mental health, challenge how we heal, challenge machismo, and challenge the status quo.

Sometimes our approach looks different because we find community through creativity. We have found healing through the low-rider, import car, tattoo, and graffiti communities. We have found growth in learning about our cultures and diversity. Whether you’re just now picking up a paintbrush, a returning artist, or a Diego Rivera or Frida Kahlo, we are all able to create community through art. It’s all about being vulnerable and being of service to others. We have found that this happens organically in our classes, with each having its own culture. Our creative writing class is for storytellers, and we hand-pick songs to help us identify who we are and how we relate to certain emotions.

Soluna Wellness is a challenge to myself, our clients, and how we view the healing journey as a whole. But, we will continue reaching for higher branches, even if we don’t fully understand our roots. Mexican Americans have a unique experience, and together as a community we can work together to promote better mental health.

This Hispanic Heritage Month, I am reminded of the importance of culture, community, connection, and creativity – our core values at Soluna Wellness. I am reminded of the ways that our communities have taken care of ourselves and each other, long before systems of oppression gave us cookie-cutter treatment plans that tied each person’s worth to numbers on a paper and behavior plans they did or did not follow through with. At Soluna Wellness, we break the mold of care in order to remind ourselves that our healing is deeply tied to each other, to our whole selves, and to those who came before us.

If you need support for your mental health and the typical treatment centers don’t feel right to you, remember that it is okay to explore your options. Get curious about what is out there and what treatment could look like for you. Know that while therapy and medication are helpful for many, there are both alternatives and supplemental methods of healing that can support your journey in whatever way you need.

If you are a provider in this field, my ask is that you get curious, too. Take the time to learn about various forms of healing that may not be as widely known. Consider the unique needs of the populations you serve. Get creative, get curious about what else is out there that could support healing. Consider whether clients feel represented by the staff they work with or the content that is being shared. Consider whether their whole self is being supported, or if they have to shut off different parts in order to fit into the clinician’s expectations of care.

Remember, the possibilities for healing are endless. We just have to give ourselves permission to explore those options, and for those of us who are providers, we have to be willing to take risks to break the mold.

For the Spanish-speaking community, find MHA resources here.

Antonio Hernandez is the CEO of Soluna Wellness.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog solely belong to the author, and external content does not necessarily reflect the views of Mental Health America.


The Capital City Emergency “Level II” Trauma & Wellness Center will house a “state of the art” Outreach Community Resource Center, that will provide case management, mental health community advocacy, and oversight from the M.I. Mother’s Keeper mental health advocates. 
The Capital City Emergency “Level II” Trauma & Wellness Center will offer patrons access to immediate coverage by general surgeons as well as coverage by the specialties of orthopedic surgery, neurosurgery, anesthesiology, emergency medicine, radiology and critical care.
Our goal is to help people in the best way possible in an effort to preserve and to save more lives in the Nation’s Capital and beyond.

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Code Red
Gunshot Victim
Life Threatening Wounds
Physical Assault Victim
Severely Injured Auto Accident Victim
Burn Victim
Choking & Breathing Obstructions
and more…


Child Sex Assault Victim
Domestic Violence Victim
Drug Overdose
Rape/Sex Crime Victim
Suicide Watch
Trafficking Victim
Nervous Breakdown
and more…

Mental Health

At Capital City Emergency Trauma & Wellness Center patrons with mental health emergencies that include life threatening situations in which an individual is imminently threatening harm to self or others, severely disoriented or out of touch with reality, has a severe inability to function or is otherwise distraught and out of control, will have access to quality and psychiatric emergency services and referrals.

Physical Health

Whether your life threatening medical emergency involves excessive or uncontrollable bleeding, head injury. difficulty with breathing, severe pain, heart attack, vision impairments, stroke, physically collapsing, or seizure related, rest assured that our professionals will properly assess and evaluate the level of response that will be most needed to help provide stabilized care solutions and minimize complications as well as reduce early mortality.

Holistic Healthcare

We offer healthcare solutions that will support the whole person which includes their physical, psychological, emotional, social, & spiritual wellbeing. Research supports that because your mental state can affect your overall health we support and offer the inclusion of complimentary and alternative medicine(CAM) practitioners and naturopathic doctor recommendations and referrals as a part of our Outreach Community Resource Center’s care regimen and support.


Emergency care can typically result in traumatic injuries for which rehabilitation becomes an essential component of care in trying to achieve the best long-term outcomes for the patient. In addition to speeding up recovery times and helping to prevent further complications, rehabilitative care also helps to support a patient’s self-managed recovery once discharged from our facility. Our Outreach Community Resource Center works closely with our trauma center’s discharge department to assure that patrons requiring these services are linked with qualified professionals who will be accountable to the standard of care required to help the patron be successful in their recovery.

Social Services

Our “state of the art” Outreach Community Resource Center intends to promote “expansive” beneficial community enriching services, programs, case management, & linkage to “approved” partner resources and supports in all of the following intended areas and more:

Social Services

  • Clothing
  • Food Pantry
  • Housing/Shelter
  • I.D. Credentials
  • Senior Wellness Check
  • Toiletries
  • Transportation
  • Etc.

Extended Family Services

  • Child Care
  • Credit Counseling
  • Family Court Services
  • Legal Aide

Career Training

  • Apprenticeship programs
  • Computer/Graphics Training
  • Culinary Program  
  • GED Courses
  • Hospitality Training
  • Job Etiquette & Grooming
  • Resume’ Prep
  • Sales Training
  • Software/Technology workshops
  • Small Business Training

Return Citizen
Program Partner
(Bridging the Gap)

  • Case Management
  • Temporary Boarding/Housing
  • Transitional Program Registration

Prevention/Intervention Outreach,
Workshops, & Programs

  • After-school Behavioral Health Program
  • Civic Engagement / Volunteer Sign-up
  • Fatherhood Rites of Passage
  • Gun Violence Town Hall Forum
  • Life Coaching & Coping Strategies
  • Marriage Counseling Workshops
  • Medicare Informational Workshops
  • Mentorship Training
  • Parental Classes
  • Support Groups
  • Town Hall Discussions
  • Violence De-Escalation Training
  • Voter Registration

Nutritional Outreach

  • Cooking Demonstrations
  • Dietary Programs
  • Exercise Classes
  • Recipe Sharing Workshops
  • Meal Prep

Community Outreach

The Healthy DC & Me Leadership Coalition is partnering with the M.I. Mother’s Keeper Mental Health advocacy organization to provide outreach services on the community level as an aid in reducing the existent health inequities that many District citizens are facing as a direct result of the presence of debilitating social determinants and the lack of culturally appropriate care choices and realities for community members residing in marginalized and lower-income communities.

It is the vision and intentions of the M.I. Mother’s Keeper Mental Health Advocates organization to help improve the quality of living for citizens living in our Nation’s Capital and beyond by overseeing the delicate linkage to services and by maintaining higher standards of care accountability for deserving citizens of the Nation’s Capital.

For more information or to enroll as one of our service providers, please email us at: