VA Incorporates Traditional Healing Practices Into Mental Health Treatment of American Indian Veterans
A new approach to treating American Indian war veterans involves combining the "most modern Western medical treatments with the most traditional Native American methods of healing," the Chicago Tribune reports.
According to the Tribune, studies have shown that American Indian veterans are more likely than other veterans to commit suicide, use illicit drugs or alcohol, have post-traumatic stress disorder and become homeless when they return from war. Higher rates of post-traumatic stress among American Indian veterans could be related to the fact that such veterans often "deeply identify with the indigenous populations they are sent to fight," as well as that American Indian troops often were more likely to be "assigned risky combat roles," the Tribune reports. American Indians historically have "deeply distrusted" the Department of Veterans Affairs and the U.S. government-run health system, according to the Tribune.
Under the new approach, the federal government is using medicine men to treat mental illness in conjunction with modern treatments. The VA also has opened five clinics run by American Indians on remote Indian reservations and will open four additional clinics in the next several months. In addition, VA implemented traditional healing practices in its urban hospitals. Most are being developed throughout the Western and Southwestern U.S., where some of the largest American Indian populations are located.
"We realized that in order to help Native American vets, we had to have the Native American communities on board," W.J. "Buck" Richardson, a minority veteran program coordinator for VA, said (Scharnberg, Chicago Tribune, 6/4).