Vamos Talks with Dr. Sandra Leon-Villa

Vamos Talks with Dr. Sandra Leon-Villa

Vamos Foods sat down with Dr. Sandra Leon-Villa, a licensed psychologist who has used her indigenous and autistic identities to prioritize the well-being of BIPOC communities. Leon-Villa wears many hats as she provides mental health services and also tests for autism and cognitive or memory deficits.

Leon-Villa explained that many professionals enter this field because of their own mental struggles and shared that her own healing influenced her career without her even knowing. 

“A lot of us come in because we have our own mental health struggles,” Leon-Villa said. “None of us are exempt [from] our own mental health issues.”

There is a slight shift within the Latinx community about being more open regarding mental health. Leon-Villa shared how BIPOC communities are making a difference within their own families and communities. 

“I definitely think we’re making a dent in terms of erasing the stigma within mental health,” Leon-Villa said. “As BIPOC people, we carry generational and intergenerational trauma. It’s not until we heal and disrupt through erasing the stigma or being more open about things that we’re actually going to disrupt those cycles.”

Leon-Villa discussed the lack of Latinx representation in this field, but shared that the ones involved are committed to helping others. 

“When we think about Latinx psychologists, we only make up about five percent of all psychologists,” Leon-Villa said. “Only five percent of those psychologists can provide services bilingually. We’re creating this norm of just talking about our self care and loving on ourselves, but also taking care of our mental health as part of just wellness.”

Leon-Villa has created a youth foundation called Empower LV and a business called Borrando el Estigma, or Erase the Stigma which funds BIPOC mental health services.

“I wanted to create equity within the community,” Leon-Villa said. “I think a lot of the work that I do focuses on not just erasing the stigma, but creating equity and also essentially BIPOC liberation.”

Representing her culture in academia was not always easy, but Leon-Villa shared how she shows up as her authentic self everyday. 

“Representing my culture also means that I have to show up fully and I have to show up as my full authentic self,” she said. “Not having to modify or change how I talk, how I dress, how I sound in spaces, while at the same time, being competent, being educated, being professional.”

While there is still fear for people in the Latinx community to seek therapy or speak about mental health issues, Leon-Villa encourages people to think about how their wellness relates to their cultural community.

“I would invite the community to think about who benefits from us staying unwell,” she said. “Who benefits from us staying in survival mode? I would just invite you to think critically about who benefits from me staying unwell because it’s not our community.”

Leon-Villa shared the beauty of therapy, how having a confidante is healing for herself, and how it can be beneficial for others. 

“I go to therapy myself. Having someone that I can share things that I’ve never really shared with anybody about and know that it's going to be in a safe environment, that in itself is healing and it’s validating.”

More of Dr. Leon-Villa’s resources and information can be found here


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