LatinX Mental Health

Exploring the Mental Health Needs of the Adolescent Latinx/Hispanic Community

The Cleveland-Cuyahoga Youth Risk Behavior Survey (CC-YRBS) is a locally informed survey that follows the methodology of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The YRBS is administered annually in Cuyahoga County middle and high schools by members of the Prevention Research for Healthy Neighborhoods (PRCHN) at CWRU. In 2014, the CC-YRBS advisory committee was struck by the high prevalence of depressive symptoms and suicidality of local youth, particularly among the Latinx/Hispanic student population. These findings served as a call to action for local community organizations and momentum continues to build within the greater Cleveland community. A qualitative approach was identified as the next step to understanding the potentially unique mental health needs within the Latinx/Hispanic population.

Watch the April 2021 Presentation about this work!

Why is this important to our community?

Social and emotional well-being is essential to overall health and is associated with risk behaviors such as alcohol and drug use, academic achievement, overweight and obesity, school connectedness, and neighborhood safety.1,2 The YRBS provides important information on rates of various behaviors yielding a quantitative perspective on need.  However, the research team felt a qualitative approach could capture the youth’s voice on felt needs and perspectives on mental health and which needs are important. We elected to use focus groups as our first data collection approach. This allowed the team to begin to have a broad understanding of Latinx/Hispanic youth’s perceptions of mental health. From these focus groups, we developed an interview guide to probe more deeply into individual experiences around mental health.

Team Members & Collaborators

  • Erika Trapl, PhD. Principal Investigator
  • Jean Frank, MPH. Director of Adolescent Surveillance and Evaluation
  • Zulayka Ruiz-Nieves, M.Ed. Director of Programs, Esperanza, Inc.
  • Marisa Hollinshead, BS. Graduate Assistant and MD Candidate
  • Heather Bailey, PhD. Graduate Assistant
  • Research Assistants:
    • Parishma Guttoo, Ivy Owusu and Maddie Pletzke

Interdisciplinary Team members:

  • Nelson Ramirez, JD, OCPSA. Executive Director of Hispanic UMADAOP of Cleveland
  • Molly Wimbiscus, MD. Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist; Director, School Mental Health Program; Assistant Professor, Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine
  • Michael Carr, LSW, LPCC-S. Mental Health Navigator, Cleveland Clinic
  • Sarah Koopman-Gonzalez, PhD. Research Associate, Dept. of Population & Quantitative Health Sciences

Communities of Focus

All focus groups and interviews were held within Esperanza, Inc. located on the West side of Cleveland.

Project Activities

48 Latinx/Hispanic youth (male and female) between the ages of 14 and 18 participated in either a focus group or semi-structured interview. Research questions explored included:

  1.  How do Latinx/Hispanic adolescents conceptualize mental health?
  2. What are the important factors, from their perspectives, that contribute to mental health?
  3. Is there an unmet need for specific mental health services or interventions within the population? and
  4. How do community and family contextualize and influence mental health?


May 2019 – ongoing

What’s Next?

Upon completion of the analysis of the focus groups and in-depth interviews, we will prepare a preliminary report and presentation of our findings to our transdisciplinary research team and invested community stakeholders. Inclusion of recommendations for policy, practice and research based on what we have learned and the current state of science will be addressed. This work may generate publishable manuscripts and, hopefully, will help to inform the community on best practices for future delivery of care.


For more information about this project, please contact Marisa Hollinshead.




  1. Brooks T, Sion K, Thrall J. Woods, E. Association of Adolescent Risk Behaviors with Mental Health Symptoms in High School Students. J of Adolesc Health. 2002; 31:240-246.
  2. Kann L, Kinchen S, Shanklin S, et al. Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance – United States, 2013. MMWR 2014;63(#4):1-168.

This project is funded through the Schubert Center and Prevention Research Center for Healthy Neighborhoods at Case Western Reserve University.