A conversation both in English and German – but the two having it understand each other perfectly. All thanks to new translation equipment from the Mental Health Association of South-Central Kansas.
The technology bridges what would normally be a major language barrier by allowing people to speak to each other in their native language – before that language is almost instantly translated to the other person, in a language they understand.
Eric Litwiller of MHASCK says, “A fairly substantial portion of the population of the Wichita metro area who primarily speak a language other than English at home now has access to mental health services, which they previously could not access due to the language barrier.”
He adds that, like almost any other field, their clinic struggles to recruit staff, especially bilingual therapists, saying, “It’s hard enough finding therapists, especially those who are willing to work in the non-profit sector. for-profit sector.”
The effort to improve mental health care for minority groups here in Wichita is something Yeni Telles supports.
“Mental health services are definitely in great need in our community and lately we’ve had a lot of conversations with the immigrant, refugee community about mental health.”
Telles works with both the International Rescue Committee and the Sunflower Community Action, so she interacts with people who speak many languages.
While she is concerned about the translators, she says, especially some of the cultural meanings that “may be lost in translation,” she believes this ultimately fills a great need.
“I think it’s important for us to be creative and innovate, you know, bring in different tools that will benefit our community.”