Boston Globe Looks at Mental Health Services for American Indian Veterans
The Boston Globe on Monday examined efforts to target mental health services to American Indian veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan wars. As of July, at least 18,000 of the 22,000 American Indians currently in the military have been deployed at least once to Iraq or Afghanistan, according to the Department of Defense.
Recent studies have found that nearly 30% of Army soldiers returning from Iraq suffer from depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder, the Globe reports. No studies have been conducted among personnel in other branches of the military. In addition, the prevalence of illnesses among American Indians returning from Iraq and Afghanistan has not been studied. Studies of American Indians returning from Vietnam showed that they were twice as likely as other veterans to experience PTSD. Mental health workers suspect that current soldiers have similar levels of stress.
In some parts of the U.S., the Department of Veterans Affairs has combined traditional healing methods with modern medicine to encourage American Indians to seek medical help. Yet some American Indians do not trust the federal government and the services it provides, resulting in such efforts not reaching all American Indians, the Globe reports.
Jay Shore, a psychologist in Denver who works with American Indian veterans, said, "The (Indian) community's past dealings with federal agencies as a whole, some of these experiences may not have been very positive. Historically ... the Indian vets may have good reason not to feel very comfortable in the system." Mose Hearne -- a mental health counselor at the North American Indian Center of Boston, a Gulf War veteran and a member of the Mohawk tribe -- suggested that Veterans Affairs should customize its services to the cultural needs of American Indian veterans, adding that it could reach out to tribal leaders and members to help persuade veterans to accept help (Badkhen, Boston Globe, 9/17).