Mental health experts offer services for those with emotional and mental problems

Offerings to the memory of the minors murdered by their mother in West Hills.

Photo: Ricardo López Juárez / Impremedia

A few days after the murder of three children under the age of 12 at the hands of their mother, a mental health expert talks about how important it is to identify when a person is not mentally well and how to help them.

On May 8, Angela Dawn Flores, who lived in West Hills, was accused of murdering her three children, ages 12, 11 and 8, with the help of her 16-year-old son. Flores apparently murdered her children under the belief that they were possessed by demons.

Flores appeared in court on Thursday but only to ask for the delay of his hearing that will be on August 12 in the court of Van Nuys. Meanwhile the teenager, who is in a juvenile detention center, pleaded not guilty.

Frances Chinchilla, a clinical social worker and therapist at AltaMed, said it’s common in the Latino community to be embarrassed about telling someone about any emotional or mental health difficulties. This is because we are often taught to be strong, not to depend on others and not to share our personal lives.

“Often, we don’t know and we really have to start looking for certain behaviors or signs and take them seriously,” said Chinchilla, who does not know or care for Flores.

In an interview with the LA Times, Flores’ ex-partner, Jacob Corona, indicated that she contacted him a few days earlier with a strange conversation about God and death. They didn’t speak to each other for a long time and despite the fact that he had some doubts about the conversation, he didn’t take it too seriously.

The signs to take into account

Chinchilla said that if someone starts saying that they are very tired, that it is difficult for them to function to carry out daily tasks, that they feel unmotivated or that they do not feel appreciated, these are all indicators that something is going on emotionally with that person.

Changes in behavior are also good as those people who are outgoing start to avoid family gatherings, don’t take phone calls, don’t call as much as they used to, or seem withdrawn and isolated when you’re around them.

Being irritable or closed to reality are signs that they may be going through something.

“That time, we shouldn’t wait for someone to tell us there’s something wrong, we should really check it out of concern. Ask how did you feel? And also normalize that it’s normal to feel overwhelmed,” Chinchilla explained. “Sometimes it’s normal to feel down and it’s good to share our own stories with others so they too feel comfortable sharing what they’re experiencing.”

Taking therapy is healthy

Chinchilla said that people should not be afraid or ashamed to seek therapeutic help when they consider it necessary.

“Therapies are really for everyone and it’s a space to get support, be open and honest about what we’re experiencing,” he said.

He added that it is not true that therapy is only for those who can pay for the sessions. Currently there is therapy help for all people regardless of income or immigration status.

“There are also low-cost or free services and you can even see your main provider and they can help you with referrals like a clinic like AltaMed where we offer not only medical services, but also behavioral health services,” he stressed.

Additionally, the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health (LACDMH) offers assistance to those interested in improving their well-being and that of their families.

The department directly operates more than 85 programs and contracts with providers to provide a range of mental health services to people of all ages to support hope, recovery, and wellness.

Mental health services include assessments, case management, crisis intervention, medication support, peer support, and other rehabilitative services. Services are provided in multiple settings, including residential facilities, clinics, schools, hospitals, detention centers and youth camps, mental health courts, boarding and care homes, in the countryside, and in people’s homes.

Special emphasis is placed on addressing co-occurring mental health disorders and other health issues such as addiction.

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