Magazine Feature / People

Prado counsels Latina girls

The fact that almost one in three Hispanic female high school students considers suicide motivated Lydia Prado (PhD psychology ’94) to create a suicide prevention program named Voz y Corazon—Spanish for voice and heart.

“It is a huge challenge for Latina teens to negotiate a healthy bicultural identity in the current climate of negative stereotypes and low expectations of academic achievement,” Prado says.

The program has served more than 500 girls since it began in 2003.

In addition to her advocacy for Latina girls, Prado is director of child and family services at the Mental Health Center of Denver (MHCD). There, she marshals two federal grants that address mental health, substance abuse and HIV prevention among Latinos and African-Americans in west Denver. She also directs the MHCD cultural competence program, and her credentials don’t stop there.

Throughout her career, Prado has worked tirelessly to advance the causes that benefit the mental health of children and their families. As an adjunct child clinical psychology professor at DU, Prado researched ways to improve strategies addressing family therapy; premarital counseling; and violence and substance-abuse prevention while focusing on the challenges of specific cultural contexts.

Prado explains that mainstream models for treatment of mental illness are standardized to majority, middle-class populations that don’t reflect minority worldviews, cultures and experiences. So, as cultural competence director at MHCD, she trains therapists to identify their clients’ cultural constructs and modify their therapy accordingly.

“There are multiple ways of framing mental health, mental illness and recovery,” Prado says. “It looks different for different people.”

This article originally appeared in The University of Denver Magazine, Fall 2006.

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