Empowering the heart of the family

February 16, 2015

Latina women play a key role in the health and well-being of their families. Too often this burden of being the essential unifying force to support and guide the family leads to women putting aside their own needs. Research has shown that Latina women are more likely to experience symptoms of anxiety and depression and more likely to delay seeking help for such symptoms.

This health challenge is a major reason why Texas A&M Colonias Program sought assistance from Paso del Norte Health Foundation’s Think.Change initiative. Through the Think.Change initiative, Foundation partners are working to reduce stigma and negative bias associated with mental illness. Enrique Mata, Senior Program Officer from the Paso del Norte Health Foundation explains that “reducing stigma and building a culture of support and acceptance will contribute to mental health and mental well-being for families in the Paso del Norte region.”

Texas A&M Colonias Program was awarded a Think.Change initiative grant for more than $161,000 to implement an evidence-based program known as “De Mujer a Mujer.” This program has shown positive results in helping Mexican American women living in United States/Mexico border communities understand what depression is, its causes, when to seek aid, and where to go for support services.

With Foundation support, Texas A&M is training 48 promotoras or lay-health workers to provide the “De Mujer a Mujer program to more than 630 women throughout El Paso and Hudspeth Counties. The program is a series of six small group sessions designed to help de-mystify depression by focusing on promoting a positive image, using tools and resources to cope with life events, and learning myths and facts surrounding depression to diminish stigma and negative bias associated with mental illness. The “De Mujer a Mujer” program is designed to create a safe nurturing environment where women can share life experiences with peers. Experienced promotoras are trained to recruit participants and deliver the sessions. They have unique access to underserved and hard-to-reach Latino families in regional communities facing health disparities.

“Participants work through emotional situations practicing self-reflection, stress management, reinforcing positive attitudes, socialization and developing healthy behaviors,” said Pema Garcia, Regional Director of the Texas A&M Colonias program. The program serves as a mechanism to help empower women. The closed sessions give women “permission” to talk about their symptoms and their root causes. As a result some participants report that they have been able to resolve long-time family issues and are now reunited. Others have found their voice and are serving as volunteer facilitators for the project to help other women improve their self-esteem and cope with stressful life events.

Think.Change initiative data about stigma associated with mental illness in the Paso del Norte region show that many are misinformed about mental illness and respond negatively when confronted with individuals who have a mental illness. The health promoting efforts of the Texas A&M Colonias program are contributing to positive health outcome for regional families. Their work is also sparking interest from other organizations in and outside the region to replicate the De Mujer a Mujer program in their communities.

For more information on the De Mujer a Mujer program contact, Pema Garcia at 915-860-9528 or and for more information on the Think.Change initiative contact, Enrique Mata at 915-544-7636 or

Back to News