CHAT: Mental health education that works

August 17, 2016
At 40 years old, Gabriel Vazquez was feeling stressed and angry at the whole world. “My self-esteem was to the floor,” he said, “I couldn’t communicate with anyone and there were moments where I thought I was going crazy. I was short of breath, and for a long time I thought I was having heart problems.”

To make matters worse, Vazquez lost an important family member. “My uncle died. That marked a very difficult moment in my life. I did not know how to get beyond this, but thank goodness for the CHAT program.”

Education that closes the gap

Creating Healthier Attitudes Today, or CHAT, is a six-week mental health education program that Providence offers to vulnerable adults living in underserved communities of Los Angeles County. There is no other program like it in the area.

While many local organizations provide intervention services, CHAT is the only program that teaches coping skills to people who may not have a mental illness but still need extra support managing the stress in their lives. CHAT closes this gap, and has even been able to connect people who need additional help with the right treatment and support.

Finding the light within

To promote whole-person health, CHAT instructors provide culturally relevant coping skills that include stress and anger management, effective communication, self-esteem enhancement, resiliency and emotional intelligence. Surveys of CHAT graduates show that the program is improving their ability to handle stress and seek support from those around them.

“Before, I was a person with many problems and I did not know how to handle my life,” said Vazquez.

“Now I have the tools to overcome, to grow as a human being, and I am determined to share all of this with anyone who needs it. I found that the path for me is like a light that was illuminated in my life.”

A network of community support

CHAT is making a difference thanks to Providence’s investment of $50,000 and participation by a network of community partners. As a result of Providence’s community health needs assessment, mental health education and coping skills were identified by many community partners as a priority health issue. Participants can enroll in the program and participate in courses through a variety of community sites, including Richstone Family Center, St. Margaret Center, Providence Vasek Polak Clinic, St. Joseph’s Catholic Church and the Providence Community Health Wellness and Activity Center.

Changing lives in six weeks

As for Vazquez, “I feel like a champion. In six weeks I advanced to where I had never advanced before in my 40 years.” 

To learn more about the CHAT program, please contact Juan Mendez, CHAT program supervisor, (310) 792-5052.