McALLEN — Elsa Roman’s outlook on life changed from negative to positive within a span of a couple of years.

It was two years ago that Roman, an Hidalgo resident, was at her lowest point in life with financial issues, birth of a child and her father in dire health. Today she is a certified peer support specialist coordinator at Hope Family Health Center.

“I was suffering from depression, very hard depression and I asked for services and was sent to counseling where I was diagnosed with a mental health illness,” Roman said.

She was a patient in the center for more than a year and with the assistance of the center and doctors orders was released. After the discharge, Roman returned — this time as a volunteer and became a leader for laughter yoga.

“They helped me overcome the trauma,” she said. “Trauma affects a person and that is where the development of symptoms of mental health begins. People ask, ‘what’s wrong with you?’”

She is now on a mission to help others as a peer specialist.

“I can help others from the position of a specialist because I have been there and I know what it’s like and know what it’s like is to ask for services,” she said. “We want to eliminate the stigma on our Latino community about mental health issues and mental health challenges. We want people to ask for services and to say it is okay not to be okay.”

Executive Director Rebecca Stocker said Hope Family Health Center has helped approximately 2,000 patients a year in the center’s 22 years.

The center provides services in primary medical, counseling, integrated behavioral health, peer support services, case management, and wellness programs to the uninsured living in the Rio Grande Valley.

The center will begin a new service in October called, “Warm Line,” which is still in the developmental stages.

“A warm line is a pure run support line for anyone who is going through a behavioral health issue, mental health issue and needs support from someone else with lived experiences,” Stocker said. “There may be somebody that will be going through a crisis or close to a crisis and need somebody to talk to and their isolated and don’t want to call the hospital for help or don’t have the resource. They can call the warm line and speak with someone who has gone through something similar and help them build on their internal resources and move on.”

The idea began last year after a staff discussion and having the peer group ongoing for four years. When Texas House Bill 13 was in legislation, the center applied for the grant and was awarded funding. HB 13 is a grant program for mental health services that passed in 2017. The program is for the community to provide services and treatment to individuals experiencing mental illness.

The beginning stages of the Warm Line program will be conducted through over-the-phone conversations, but as time progresses she wants to find other ways of communication like text messaging.