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Young Women in the Eastern Coachella Valley Address Mental Health Through Storytelling

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Olivia Rodriguez and Juliana Taboada are two founding members of ¡Que Madre! Media, new storytelling collective for young women in the Eastern Coachella Valley struggling with mental health challenges. (Courtesy of Amber Amaya/Coachella Unincorporated)

Mental health is a largely stigmatized conversation among young Latina women and other women of color in the Eastern Coachella Valley, a rural, unincorporated area of Riverside County. In 2018, a small group of young women, ranging from ages 15-25, and their adult allies launched a new storytelling collective called ¡Que Madre! Media with the goal of challenging those stigmas through storytelling.

Together, they use storytelling on Instagram and elsewhere to elevate their own personal experiences struggling with mental health challenges -- and to connect community members with local mental health service providers.

Filmmaker Olivia Rodriguez, 25, sat down with a fellow founding member of ¡Que Madre! Media, Juliana Taboada, 17, to talk about the mental and emotional distress young women in the Eastern Coachella Valley face, and how storytelling can help end mental health stigmas.

Can you talk about the mental health challenges facing young women in the Eastern Coachella Valley? I know that you have been a big advocate through your writing.

Taboada: Being in a predominantly Latino community, women are always assumed to be irrational or overly emotional. And when we deal with those feelings, we are seen as crazy or mentally unstable. I think we forget that you need to deal with your emotions; you can't just put them aside, because that makes them worse over time.


When we have spaces like ¡Que Madre! Media, where we are allowed to talk about these things, it shows us that what we feel is valid, especially with an outlet to write about those feelings.

I think being a part of this group for young women of color helps me feel like I’m not the only person who deals with these issues. I won’t refer to it as group therapy, but when we talk about these [mental health] issues it feels like raw coping together, raw healing. I think that's really powerful.

In your poems you write about your anxiety. Is that something you discovered about yourself in high school, or had you been dealing with anxiety for a while?

Taboada: My whole life. I had anxiety since I was about eight years old; I think that's when it became super, super big to me. I remember I had a teacher who used to give me panic attacks in class because she was so rude to me, and I was also dealing with a lot of stuff at home. I remember one day I locked myself in the restroom because I didn’t want to go to school. I think that's when I knew that what I felt wasn’t what I should have been feeling at eight years old. When I got older, I put the word ‘anxiety’ to that feeling.

How did you find that term, 'anxiety,' or discover those resources at such a young age?

Taboada: I have a family member with very high-functioning anxiety, like me. She was the one who told me about it, and I'm grateful for that.

I think mental health is a big thing that we need to talk about. We need to have access to that kind of health care. We need to have access to therapists. Therapy can't be seen as a necessity when it's priced as a luxury. I think therapy is great; I have a therapist, but it's tough to find the right person.

The Coachella You Might Not Have Heard About

How did you find your therapist?

Taboada: I found my therapist through one of my mentors. She and I were at a retreat called Sisterhood Rising, and I had a panic attack during a conversation about depression. That moment triggered me in a way that I hadn't dealt with before, so I had to step out of the room because I was freaking out.

My mentor came to talk to me later on that night, and I explained to her that I don't always know how to deal with my emotions by myself. Sometimes it's so overwhelming. During that retreat she introduced me to someone who started a nonprofit organization that provides free therapy for young folks.

What are the hopes and dreams you have for yourself and your community?

Taboada: For myself, I want to create a show. I don't know if any of you are familiar with Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, but I want to make a show similar to that, but for kids of color. I also want to make films and write plays, and to be someone who young women of color can look up to.

For my family, I want them to be as happy as possible. For my community, I hope that we all know we're resilient people and that we are all aware of the power that we have. But I want us to become even more powerful. I want us to become more vocal and more prominent. And I want us to one day say, ‘We are the Eastern Coachella Valley and we are never going to leave. We're here to stay.'

Thank you so much for sharing your personal story and for the impact you've had on our community.

Taboada: Thank you for letting me share my story.

Olivia Rodriguez, 25, is a writer and filmmaker behind Estamos Aqui. ¡Que Madre! Media Collective is supported by the Regional Access Project Foundation and The California Endowment.

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