C.R.E.A.T.E. Space brings out the smiles while promoting mental health awareness

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

Tulalip Youth Services celebrated “Say Hello Week” with an added focus of taking the stigma out of mental health awareness. The week included a variety of learning activities for the children and teenagers of the community. The biggest event was without a doubt the open house and grand opening of the C.R.E.A.T.E. Space on Friday, February 2.

From 10:00am-6:30pm on that Friday, the 2nd floor of the Youth Center was a destination for celebration and hands-on learning while becoming acquainted with the newly created space designed for inclusion, offering a place for community youth to go when they need to decompress.

C.R.E.A.T.E. Space stands for Calm Room & Expressive Art to Empower. It’s the result of a collaborative effort of the Methamphetamine Suicide Prevention Initiative through Behavioral Health and Youth Services. All community members and youth are invited to visit the space and learn more about its uses and how to remove the stigma and shame surrounding mental health issues.

“With the recent creation of the Tulalip Special Needs Parent Association by several key community members and Youth Services, we wanted to honor the great work that’s going on by making sure that we create activities and places that are wholly inclusive of all youth,” explained Monica Holmes, C.R.E.A.T.E. Space designer and Parapro for the M.S.P.I. Grant. “That meant taking a look at our facilities first and asking the question: Are we accessible in every sense of the word to our youth with special needs be they social, emotional, physical or mental?

“The C.R.E.A.T.E. Space has two major components that were developed to meet those needs. The Calm Room is a sensory inclusive space with various elements that can be utilized to provide a sensory environment which promotes a sense of calm and well-being, while addressing the individual sensory input needs of our youth with sensory overload challenges. We’ve stocked it with items like play dough, Legos, fidgets, soft furnishings, lower lighting, colored mood lighting, essential oil infusers, nature sound machine, yoga mats and resistance bands that can deliver the right amount of sensory input and/or relax the nervous system that is agitated or overloaded by typical lights and sounds of most spaces.

“The Expressive Art studio is the second component to the C.R.E.A.T.E. Space which serves youth in a unique fashion. It doubles as an art studio and gathering spot for teens who want to hang out in a homey, quiet, comfortable location to interact in small groups or one-on-one with a staff member trained to use art and games as a means to express creativity and emotion in a safe space.”

For the grand opening event many Tulalip service departments were invited to setup their own information booths where they could interact with visitors to the Space. Community Health, Smoking Cessation, Problem Gambling, Chemical Dependency, and Behavioral Health were among those who accepted the invite. Partnerships are key in spreading awareness and resources to our community members. With all those services under one roof at the same time, they were able to let people know they have many choices and places to go for help with various addictions or issues. They also helped de-stigmatize the act of reaching out for help.

A variety of free expressive art classes were offered to visitors and attendees of the grand opening event. The one receiving the most youth attention and excitement was the Broken Bowl Project. The bowl represents us as an individual, we are vessels that hold many things. But sometimes we break and need to be put back together. Our brokenness changes us, makes us who we are. And so the painting on the outside of the bowl represents who we are on the outside, and the words on the inside of the bowl express all the hidden components that make us who we are.

“The lesson of the Broken Bowl Project is to embrace the brokenness, to add words and colors and fill the cracks and holes with beautiful reminders and positive messages about the things we have overcome or hope to be someday,” says Monica, who guided over fifteen youth undergoing the project. “But mostly we should be able to stand back and admire this new vessel we have become, not despite but inspite of all we have done, been or had happen to us.”

The C.R.E.A.T.E. Space is a place to decompress and also learn positive coping skills with an adult who has been trained to provide sensory appropriate options during times of high stress and overload. As the mother of four special needs children with sensory processing issues, Parapro Monica Holmes has spent years learning ideas from occupational therapists and creating spaces like this at her own home and in public settings for children.

Hours of C.R.E.A.T.E. Space are Monday – Friday from 3:30p.m. – 6:00p.m. Individual sessions can be made by appointment or small groups wanting a private setting can make a reservation. For more information please contact Monica Holmes at 360-631-3406 or mholmes@tulaliptribe-nsn.gov

Mental health stigma, it’s a personal thing

Tulalip Tribes Mental Health Team

 

By Kay Feather, MA, LMHC, ATR, EMDR, Sandplay & Art Therapy, Tulalip Family Services

There is much written about mental health stigma, long articles from many perspectives, some about how mental health stigma lives in Native Country.  The common thread for me is the shame I have felt and seen in my life and those around me.  I see it when someone does not want to share their illness with a new friend or family member, fearing that they will be looked down upon.   I see it when a medication might help and there is hesitancy in taking it because that means “I’m mentally ill”.

Mental Health Stigma is a very personal issue.  I have struggled with depression for most of my life and have loved ones who are caught in the grip of mental illness.   I realized recently that even though I am a mental health counselor and work daily to help others alleviate the effects it has on their lives, that I had an attitude about mental illness.

Shame is the part of mental health stigma that makes it so painful.  Shame buries us in self-doubt and we tend to suffer in silence, fearing what someone might think of us.  So we don’t share or ask for help when we are in need.  Mental health stigma undermines our efforts towards wellness and an ability to heal.

So you see, Mental Health Stigma is a very personal issue.  It is for anyone who suffers with mental illness, or has a family member who does.  Mental health stigma shadows one’s ability to understand and have compassion for another’s pain and struggle.

When one is diagnosed with cancer, diabetes, or some other illness, friends and family gather round and offer support.  There may be sadness, shock, fear, and also shame, but it does not cripple our ability to reach out.

Mental illness is a broad term for many different diagnosis, several hundred in the Diagnostic Manual of Mental Illnesses.    There are many different behaviors with the different diagnosis, but one thing that is true for all of them; the person is suffering, they are in pain.  It manifests in many different ways, but they are suffering.  And being given a diagnosis is not necessarily a permanent thing, with help it can change.

I urge you to look within and find the compassion you have for your loved one and know that they need your love, your kindness and understanding to live a full life.   Educate yourself on their mental illness, talk with them, and ask how you can help.  And if you suffer from mental illness, allow yourself to love yourself and know that it’s not your fault, you didn’t do anything wrong.  Sometimes things happen in life and it just doesn’t feel fair.   Seek help, educate yourself, and know that you are stronger than your diagnosis.  .

Here are some resources that you may find helpful:

  • http://www.namisnohomishcounty.org/   National Alliance on Mental Illness This organization offers support group and education for those who suffer with mental illness and those who love and support them.
  • https://themighty.com/   The Mighty is a website that has articles written by those who are healing from mental illness, disabilities and illness of all sorts.  I have been following this one on Facebook, and have found a wealth of support here.

Here at Tulalip we have two teams to help you:

  • Adult Mental Health Team  360-716-4400
  • Child, Youth and Family Team    360-716-4072

America Is Trying to Fix a Mental Health Crisis That It Created

Lawmakers and advocates are trying to help Native American youths, who are dying in record numbers.

(Photo: Robert Alexander/Getty Images)

(Photo: Robert Alexander/Getty Images)

By Jamilah King, Takepart.com

Julian Juan was only 13 when he noticed the scars. A high school freshman on the Tohono O’Odham Reservation, about an hour and a half southwest of Tucson, Arizona, Juan had a tight-knit group of seemingly gregarious friends. But even in southern Arizona’s desert heat, some of those friends wore long-sleeved shirts. Once, a friend’s sleeve rode up high enough to reveal scarred flesh.

“When I asked about it, they would say, ‘Oh, I cut myself doing yard work,’ or ‘I got caught in a fence,’ ” Juan remembered. He persistently pushed them for the truth. “They would say they were having these thoughts and would never fully explain,” he said. He could tell the people closest to him were suffering. And he wanted to do something about it.

Today, Juan is a 23-year-old junior at the University of New Mexico who serves as a youth cabinet member in the National Congress of American Indians, the largest advocacy organization for Native Americans in the country, where he’s worked with a broad coalition of young people to put mental health among tribal elders’ top concerns.

“This issue is really taboo for people in my community,” he said. “They don’t like to talk about it, and it does hurt to talk about, but it’s not going away.”

There’s a growing mental health crisis among Native American youths, and it’s being driven by poverty, violence, and lack of resources. It’s difficult to definitively assess how pervasive the problem is, partly because cultural stigma about mental illness makes it difficult for experts to access many Native American communities. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the second leading cause of death among Native Americans between the ages of 15 and 34—a  rate that’s two and a half times higher than the national average for that age group. The crisis appears to be afflicting Native American communities across the country.

On the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, nearly 1,000 suicide attempts were reported between 2004 and 2013. In roughly the same period, the local hospital has apparently treated more than 240 people under age 19 who planned or tried to commit suicide.

The crisis is getting national attention. Earlier this month, First Lady Michelle Obama touted the Generation Indigenous Native Youth Challenge, a White House–backed initiative with the U.S. Department of the Interior. The initiative has the lofty goal  of “removing the barriers that stand between Native youth and their opportunity to succeed.”

The first lady outlined a “long history of systemic discrimination and abuse,” ranging from 19th-century laws that forcibly removed Native Americans from their land to the early-20th-century boarding schools that meticulously extinguished many tribes’ language and culture. Those injustices set the tone for the dire situation in many of today’s tribal communities. Here are the statistics, according to the American Psychiatric Association: Native Americans are more than twice as likely to live in poverty than the rest of the U.S. population. They’re also nearly twice as likely as to suffer psychological distress, usually in the form of depression or post-traumatic stress disorder.

“Given this history, we shouldn’t be surprised at the challenges that kids in Indian Country are facing today,” the first lady said. “And we should never forget that we played a role in this. Make no mistake about it—we own this.”

In November 2014, a U.S. Justice Department task force, led by retired Democratic U.S. Sen. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, submitted a report to Attorney General Eric Holder outlining several actions that could help address the trauma experienced by Native American children. The task force recommended that a Native American Affairs Office be fully staffed within the White House Domestic Policy Council and more federal money be spent on funding tribal criminal and civil prosecutions.

People working in tribal communities are searching for answers. Sheri Lesansee is program manager of New Mexico’s Native American Suicide Prevention Clearinghouse. She says that understanding the diversity of 22 tribal communities is key to accessing their needs. “The outreach and technical assistance really does have to be tailored to meet the needs of that community,” Lesansee told TakePart, pointing to therapists who are well versed in the concepts of generational trauma and familiar with tribal family dynamics. At the same time, Lesanee said it’s important to focus on the tools tribal communities already possess, such as endurance. “We believe—as Native people—we are strong and resilient, and we emphasize that in prevention efforts,” she said.

Jennifer Nanez, a senior program therapist at the University of New Mexico’s Native American Behavioral Health Program, said overt racism continues to play an important role in kids’ lives. “A lot of times the mainstream perspective is that Natives can’t seem to get out of this rut—and that it’s just a characteristic of an American Indian when it’s not,” Nanez said, before echoing the first lady’s sentiments. “[This] is the result of hundreds of years of oppression, and our kids are dealing with it.”

As proof, Nanez pointed to an instance from January when a group of Native American children attending a minor-league hockey game in South Dakota were accosted by a group of white men in a skybox above their seats. The men allegedly dumped beer and yelled racial slurs at the kids, and the story eventually made headlines. “They were getting drunk, and around the third quarter they were talking crap to our kids and throwing beer down on some of them, including our staff and students…telling our students to go back to the rez,” one chaperone wrote on Facebook.

New Mexico is one of a handful of states that have tried to address the problem through legislation. In 2011, the state legislature passed a bill that, in part, created the Native American Suicide Prevention Clearinghouse, which does outreach and consultation for various tribal communities.

Even Native Americans who don’t live in tribal communities feel the impact of the problem. Christian Redbird, 22, was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and has struggled with mental illness while attending community college. Members of her family suffered from undiagnosed mental illness. No one in her family had ever gone to therapy, and instead self-medicated with alcohol, she said. Redbird, the first person in her family to go to college, realized she didn’t have the familial and social networks to help her thrive.

“I work as a server in a restaurant and make more money than anyone in my family does,” she said. “It’s hard for me to know what steps to take when I don’t know what they are.”

Sequestration Strains Mental Health Services to Natives

Source: Indian Country Today Media Network

Mental health services for Native Americans took a 5 percent cut due to federal sequestration, and the reduction has cost tribes essential staff and programs, reports NPR.

Native teens and 20-somethings are killing themselves at an alarming pace. For those 15 to 24, the rate is 3.5 times that of other Americans and rising, according to the Indian Health Service (IHS). Tribes have declared states of emergency and set up crisis-intervention teams.

RELATED: American Indian Youth in Crisis: Tribes Grapple With a Suicide Emergency

“People are overwhelmed. Sometimes they’ll say, I just can’t go to another funeral,” says Diane Garreau, a child-welfare official on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation, in South Dakota.

But many of these mental health and suicide prevention programs are either being forced to scale back due to a lack of funding, or stunted and unable to expand to meet their community’s needs.

The Oglala Sioux Tribe in Pine Ridge, South Dakota, for one, is now unable to hire two additional mental health service providers, Cathy Abramson, chairwoman of the National Indian Health Board, told NPR.

“Since the beginning of the year, there have been 100 suicide attempts in 110 days on Pine Ridge,” Abramson said at a Senate committee hearing in Washington last spring. “We can’t take any more cuts. We just can’t.”

FINDING HELP
• 1-800-273-TALK is a free, confidential 24/7 hot line for anyone who is in crisis about any issue and wants to talk to a trained counselor. You can also call if you know someone in crisis and want advice about what to do.
• The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) administers youth-suicide prevention funds provided by the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act, named for a senator’s son who killed himself in 2003. The agency hopes that going forward more tribes will apply for them, says Richard McKeon, chief of SAMHSA’s suicide-prevention branch.
• SAMHSA offers technical assistance, on grant-writing and more, through its Native Aspirations program (NativeAspirations.org) and publishes a prevention guide, To Live to See the Great Day That Dawns, available online. The agency also maintains a registry of evidence-based (scientifically tested) suicide-prevention practices.
• For Indian Health Service resources, check the agency’s website.
• Two nonprofits, the One Sky Center and the Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board, offer much helpful information.

 

Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2013/09/12/sequestration-strains-mental-health-services-natives-151247