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Thriving Families Showcased on Mental Health Awareness Day

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PORTLAND, Ore. – Indian communities nationwide joined Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration grantees, programs and organizations across the United States on May 8 to participate in National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day 2006: Thriving in the Community.

Health promotion programs showcased the great strides that have been made toward helping Indian children, youth and families thrive at home, at school and in their communities.

The National Indian Child Welfare Association provides technical assistance to tribes and Indian communities, and encouraged recognition of May 8 as National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day.

According to a 1998 IHS report, American Indian/Alaska Native youths have a 2.5 times higher rate of suicide than that of other youths. It is generally acknowledged that these youths have higher rates of child abuse, violence and substance abuse than the general population. Together, this leads to a high rate of diagnosed and undiagnosed mental health issues. Unfortunately, the resources to provide services to these youths are often severely lacking in many communities, said NICWA Director of Community Development for Children’s Mental Health Andy Hunt.

“It does not have to be this way,” said Terry Cross, NICWA executive director. “Many of the resources needed to bring change are within the families and youths themselves. In every Indian community, there are concerned and caring advocates that can and do make a difference,” Cross said, “and many tribal communities are taking advantage of a federal grant program to accomplish more positive outcomes for their children.”

Over the past 10 years, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has provided grant funding to nearly 40 different American Indian/Alaska Native communities through the Center for Mental Health Services. The money has been used to develop a comprehensive “systems of care” approach to improving the lives of Native youths who have mental health issues and their families.

Last year, many of these communities embraced the “Mental Health Awareness Day” by holding local community events and various awareness campaigns.

NICWA is a national nonprofit organization and the most comprehensive source of information on American Indian child welfare. The organization works on behalf of Indian children and families.

NICWA provides public policy, research, advocacy, information, training and community development services to state child welfare agencies and other similar organizations and to professionals interested in the field of Indian child welfare.

Visit www.nicwa.org or call (503) 222-4044.