Central American born mom Susana Marquez on educating our community about mental health, one mom at a time #SpotlightLatina

“My dad used to read your column in La Opinión newspaper. As an immigrant parent, he said you always made him feel that he was not parenting alone.” Those were the first words that Susana Marquez said to me the first time we talked. It was such an “aha” moment. A reminder of why I am in this journey. When I told her I was touched, she got very quiet and I could tell then that her dad was no longer with us and her pain was still raw. Then I asked about her son and she lit up! Vivacious, smart, with a heart full of determination, Susana is the founder of MeMyselfnMommy, a company that provides support for moms during pregnancy and after: free postpartum support groups in English and in Spanish, educational workshops and techniques to manage tress and implement self-care.

MB: Were you raised with two languages and two cultures?

SM: Yes. I was born and raised in Los Angeles. My parents are Central American, my mother from El Salvador and my dad from Guatemala. I spoke primarily Spanish at home with my parents and at school I was in all English classes. It was never something I gave much thought too. It just came naturally and I felt it was what was “normal”, to speak Spanish at home English outside the house. I was immersed in both cultures from the beginning.


MB: You were very close to your dad, whom you lost a few years ago. How did he influence your love for culture?

SM: He taught me to be true to my roots and my culture. He instilled my love for the food and language at a very young age. We visited family, cultural events, went to eat at Guatemalan restaurants and spoke to my grandmother back in Guatemala quite often. When I was young he had my grandmother send me outfits that were authentic to Guatemalan culture and we would listen to marimba together. He raised me to be proud of being from Central American parents and bilingual. Dinner time was always family time where my father would share stories of his childhood, his country, and we would indulge in authentic platillos my mom made or we bought.


MB: As a psychologist, you are passionate about breaking the stigma of mental health. Why that area?

SM: I am very passionate about this area because I have seen first hand people suffering from a mental illness and not receive the services they need due to financial barriers or the stigma that in our Latino culture we don’t go to therapy, we don’t seek help. I want to break that stigma because just like our physical health is important our mental health is too. I want to increase the awareness in my community and teach them that it is ok to seek help, that it is ok to talk to someone about issues at home, marital problems, parenting, anything!

MB: Your company MeMySelfnMommy offers services to mothers during pregnancy and postpartum. Are many of your patients Latinas and do you offer your services in Spanish?

SM: Many of my patients are Latinas. My biggest excitement is knowing I am able to provide these services in Spanish and tap into my community, raising awareness about the importance of mental health care for mothers and educating them on how to care for themselves mentally and emotionally. We need to empower mothers more into seeking this help rather than shaming, judging and criticizing them.


MB: How old is your son? Are you raising him bilingual?

SM: He is 3 years old and I am raising him bilingual. I want him to speak both languages fully and be proud of his Central American roots.


MB: You suffered from post partum depression and anxiety, especially after your father died. How were you able to overcome it?

SM: It was very hard. I began individual therapy in late 2016 and I am grateful for the amazing therapist who helped me process the loss of my father and acknowledge that I was doing my best as a mother especially under the circumstances and stressors I was living. I am still dealing with the aftermath. I have some very rough days but I know how to be gentler with myself now.


MB: Do you think the Latino community is more open to learn about depression and mental health today than maybe 10 years ago? What has been your experience?

SM: I definitely believe we are more open to learn about mental illness and mental health because social media is helping get the word out and raise awareness. Ten years ago mental health and depression were more taboo and stigmatized and even though we still have a long way to go, now people are more receptive to sharing, listening and becoming educated. Social media has helped the newer generations to seek therapy and not be embarrassed about talking about it.


MB: Favorite bicultural activity?

SM: Celebrating Thanksgiving. This was always fun as a kid because we bought a turkey but my mom prepared it to make turkey sandwiches like they do in El Salvador and we bought pan dulce or my aunt would drop some off from her bakery to enjoy with coffee rather than the traditional American pumpkin pies. We spent the night playing lotería, listening to cumbias, marimba and dancing with the family. This is an activity we still incorporate during Thanksgiving, especially now to teach my son.

MB: You are involved with a local organization called Latina Mother’s Collaborative. Tell us about it.

SM: Latina Mother’s Collaborative is an organization that focuses on uplifting professional Latina women, mothers and business owners. Our work focuses on pregnant women and new mothers and offer services that foster a positive and empowering journey into motherhood. We host events to support, educate, and empower women and mothers and connect them with their community.


MB: A message for Latina mothers about postpartum depression?

SM: Postpartum depression manifests and affects all mother’s differently. Don’t be afraid to speak your truth and seek help when necessary. Advocate for yourself; be open about your feelings and thoughts without any fear. You do not have to do it alone, you do not have to be ashamed and most importantly postpartum depression does not define you as a mother nor does it make you a bad one.


Susana Marquez, a Latina mom that reminds us that our mental health is paramount to our well- being.


Bai, Bai for now,