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Examining Mental Health Issues Among American Indian Youth

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

A health system reliant on Western medicine practices does not appear to be meeting the needs of American Indian youth in the Gallup-McKinley County School District in New Mexico and actually could be harming them, according to a report from the Project Trust Partnership, the Gallup Independent reports.

In 2005, there were 13 suicides reported among the district's students, and the Project Trust Partnership has been investigating the issue for two years. The group talked with members of four area communities, as well as Navajo medicine men. The report says that individuals who have a knowledge of American Indian culture and tradition would be best suited to understanding American Indian youth and their mental health needs.

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"Native American traditional practices and ceremonies have been effective since the time immemorial, but federal policies at times have prohibited them, disregarded them, perpetuated questions about their credibility and validity and resulted in their loss across generations and in some communities," the report says.

The report makes about 42 recommendations for improving mental health of American Indian students, including acknowledging past mistreatment of American Indians, increasing mental health funding and establishing a system so traditional practioners can be paid for their services (Donovan, Gallup Independent, 11/8).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. © 2007 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.