Celebrating Minority Mental Health Month

Spotlight on Tribal Behavioral Health Needs

July is Minority Mental Health Month. During this month, we focus on raising awareness about how mental health and substance use issues affect ethnic minority groups. I am writing as an intern at the Division of Prevention, Traumatic Stress, and Special Programs, at the Center for Mental Health Services at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). I am also a member of the Rosebud Sioux and Oglala Sioux Tribes. I came to SAMHSA because of my personal experience with addiction and because of the suicide rates that affect my family and community.

Substance use is at a high rate in Native American communities. Mental health and substance abuse are often linked. Mental illnesses often co-occur with addiction. Like many communities, co-occurring disorders such as anxiety, depression, antisocial personality disorder, impulse control disorders, intermittent explosive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder affect tribal communities as well. However, treating only the addiction and not the co-occurring mental disorders can mean higher rates of relapse for tribal community members and other negative outcomes.

Treatment is key. Mental health problems and addiction may seem like long, dark, tunnels, but there is light at the end of them. Sometimes we don’t see the light, or we deny it is there at all. But there are resources that can help us to escape from the darkness of despair that is caused by addiction and mental illnesses.

I started my journey by asking for help, which is difficult to do when you don’t know how. For 10 years, I have been on a beautiful journey of recovery and healing. Our family took part in traditional Lakota healing ceremonies and mainstream treatment approaches. I once was on the path where light was overpowered by the darkness, but I am here to let you know that there is hope and there is help. SAMHSA’s National Helpline (800-662-4357) is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.

I challenge other tribal leaders, scholars, and community members to plan for our nation’s healthy future. Healing is a continuous cycle….read the full article, here.

By: Leon Leader Charge, Sicangu/Oglala Lakota, (Rosebud Sioux Tribe/Oglala Sioux Tribe

Credit: SAMHSA

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