Hartford Group Aims to Increase Mental Health Awareness for Communities Facing Violence

Jul 29, 2016

Iran Nazario says family members of victims don't have access to good mental health care -- nor are they seeking it.

Activists and mental health experts gathered in Hartford this week to talk about the need for more equitable access to health care services. But sometimes, health care isn't on the top of people's minds.

Iran Nazario is director of the Peacebuilders program at the COMPASS Youth Collaborative in Hartford. The group provides outreach services for children and families facing community violence. 

Nazario has responded to over 80 murders in Hartford over ten years.

“Think about that number for a second,” Nazario said. “The amount of trauma and the amount of despair that exists when you have 80 people killed in a ten-year period, and that's just due to gun deaths.”

Nazario said the family members of these victims are often impoverished and don't have access to good mental health care -- nor are they seeking it. 

“Your concern is safety. Your concern is being able to have your children come home,” Nazario said. “Am I really thinking about health? Am I thinking about health equity? Am I thinking about, 'Well let me go down the street to this facility and see if I can access health services?'”

Nazario said the answer is no. And he thinks the health industry needs to form better partnerships with ground-level outreach groups like COMPASS -- forming personal relationships through home visits, and making people believe that they need health services.