November is Native American Heritage Month
Submitted by Steve Verney, PhD.
November is National Native American Heritage Month, a time to not only recognize our Native communities and honor traditions and strengths, but also to work toward solutions to reduce the suffering and hardships facing our Native communities. Our UNM HSC Transdisciplinary Research, Equity, and Engagement Center for Advancing Behavioral Health (TREE Center) is committed to addressing important behavioral health problems and critical barriers to progress the health and wellbeing of NM’s Native populations. Native American suffer from many mental and physical at a greater rate than the U.S. general population. For example, NM has one of the highest rates of suicide, depression, and alcohol and drug misuse in the U.S. Yet, Natives in NM, 11% of the state’s population, suffer even more than the state’s other groups. More than 1 in 5 Native middle school students have seriously considered suicide and 1 in 8 Native High School students have attempted suicide in the past year. One third of the NM Native high school students experienced persistence sadness or hopelessness in the past year. Further, Native’s have the highest rates of alcohol-related deaths in the state. These stark behavioral health outcomes are likely rooted in social and environmental structures and policies, termed social determinants of health, along with a long history of various community traumas. Our TREE Center’s vision is to partner with local, state, tribal and national leaders to create opportunities to improve these and other behavioral health conditions experienced in our Native communities.