Conference focuses on mental health in indigenous communities | great story

Billings, Mont. – As the mental health conversations continue in Montana, there is a great need for services in our Indigenous communities.

To address that need, Montana Social Scientists is hosting a three-day conference for mental health providers with a focus on incorporating Native American knowledge into models of care.

At the three-day conference in Billings, mental health providers from across the state will learn new ways to connect with their Indigenous patients and support them on their journey to wellness.

The hope is that the caregivers in attendance will get away with a deeper cultural understanding and sensitivity to their Indigenous patients and all they’ve been through.

According to the Montana Department of Health and Human Services (DPHHS), the suicide rate among American Indians ages 11 to 24 is more than five times higher than in the rest of the state for the same age group.

Kathleen Little Leaf specializes in trauma-informed care, which she believes is particularly important for working with this population.

“We have trauma and all different kinds of trauma, but for Native Americans, it’s a little bit more unique, just in regards to that generational trauma, so it’s a little bit deeper,” Little Leaf said.

The conference will highlight suicide prevention, chemical dependence and information sharing on a new type of license approved by the state.

Certified behavioral health support specialists are providers who have a diagnosed conduct disorder and are currently in recovery.

Johnny Talawyma is one of those specialists and knows what it’s like to claw your way back to life after struggling with an addiction.

“I felt very hopeless like nothing was going to change, so in the end I just gave up and decided to drink myself to death,” Talawyma said. “I woke up in ICU again and was pissed. I was mad at God, I was mad that I came back. And I was mad at him for saving me. So I started talking to god, the creator, that if you want me here, you’re going to help me, or show me that you’re opening doors for me.”

Vanessa McNeill, owner of Montana Social Sciences, says the certification of peer support in behavioral health will enable him and others actively recovering from their addictions to be active in the communities that serve them most. need.

“Some of these tribes don’t even have counselors, they don’t have anything. So getting a warm body in it to help them get the resources they need is the goal,” McNeill said.

The state is taking additional steps to try to address disparities in access to mental health care.

Terrance Lafromboise is the Zero Suicide Grant Manager for DPHHS, a program designed to raise awareness of suicide and improve care for people at risk of suicide.

“I think they really want to understand and they really want to connect with these entities, these tribal sovereign nations,” Lafromboise said. “And so for the state to recognize that we need more Indigenous workers to connect with our Indigenous peoples makes me really grateful that we have a state that creates inclusiveness.”

To learn more about peer support specialist certification in behavioral health, visit the Montana Certified Behavioral Health website here.

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