Students from Utah State University’s Latinx Creative Society celebrated Day of the Dead on Saturday. It was a parade that honored the dead, but also focused on ways to support those living with mental health challenges.
Day of the Dead is an annual tradition where people of Latin heritage dress in vibrant colors with faces painted or masked to represent their ancestors who have passed away.
Curtis Snelgrove, the mental health first aid program director for the Family Place, a northern Utah support organization working with the northern Utah Hispanic Health Coalition, believes health should be a priority.
“No matter where you’re from, what you do, what culture you come from, your background or your ancestors, health is so very important,” Snelgrove said. “How can we promote awareness and things we can do to just be more healthy, whether that’s physical or mental health?”
According to Victoria Yates, a student at Utah State, mental illness is an issue in Mexico.
“I served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Mexico and mental health is not really talked about - it’s taboo,” Yates said. “I think it’s really important for the Hispanic community to understand that it’s okay. As we become more aware of it, we can help other people who are suffering.”
Megan Warburton, also a student at Utah State, enjoyed the feeling of community.
“I think it’s neat that they’re incorporating both that idea of family and recognizing mental awareness into one. They’re both so important and they go kind of hand-in-hand,” Warburton said.
Snelgrove explained to the crowd that one in every five individuals of the community suffers from a diagnosable mental illness.
“To see how people are just like ‘this is important, I want to be part of this and I’m gonna show up,’ it just gives me so much more of a drive to do what I do every day,” Snelgrove said.
The Day of the Dead celebration is led by a bride and groom dressed in traditional costumes, similar to those worn by family members who celebrate the day in Mexico as a way of honoring the dead and their heritage.