Friday, May 1, 2015

APA Event Addresses Mental Health Needs of American Indians

American Indians have long experienced lower health status when compared with other Americans. During an APA-sponsored event in Sioux Falls, S.D., on Thursday, community leaders and mental health professionals called for more to be done to address the mental health needs of this population.

“We know what the health inequities are among the Native American population,” APA CEO and Medical Director Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A, told conference attendees. “It’s time for us to do something. APA is here to help and can use its lobbyists to help address these issues to legislatures.”

Debanjana Bhattacharya, M.D., M.P.H. (left), a fourth-year psychiatry resident at the Sanford School of Medicine at the University of South Dakota and APA minority fellow, described the toll mental illness was having on the people of South Dakota alone. “Suicide rates for American Indians in South Dakota are 2.5 times than the rates in the surrounding states of Iowa, Nebraska, and North Dakota,” said Bhattacharya, who helped organize the event. Alcohol use disorder is also one of the leading causes of death among American Indians residing in South Dakota.

To help address these needs, individuals from the public and private sectors recently formed the Alliance for American Indian Behavioral Health, which aims to advance health equity for Native Americans within the Sioux Falls area through the promotion of available resources and training in cultural competence for non-Native American health care professionals.

Yesterday's event was sponsored by APA’s Division of Diversity and Health Equity in conjunction with the South Dakota Psychiatric Association.

To read more about efforts in addressing mental health issues among American Indians, see the Psychiatric News article "White House Hosts Briefing on Federal Suicide Prevention Efforts."

(Image: Vabren Watts/Psychiatric News)


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