Native Village
Youth and Education news
Volume 3, November 2011
Psychology students bring "much needed" aid to Neb. reservations 
Read the entire article: http://www.unogateway.com/
Condensed by Native Village

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"Suicide and depression and mental illness are all topics that need to be talked about openly in our society now So many people are walking around with open wounds on the inside of their brains that no one can see. But they need professional medical help." Donna Wolff

Nebraska: Students from the University of Nebraska Omaha visited the Omaha and Winnebago reservations during  National Depression Screening Day. UNO students helped with a depression inventory for students and senior citizens as part of a service-learning program.

"For me, service learning is really who I am," said Jessiline Anderson, the course instructor. Anderson has her doctorate in Clinical Psychology. "Serving in our community is a great way to give back to the community."

Depression can be a crippling mental health problem, and its effects are magnified in Native populations. According to Anderson's past research, 33% of Native adults on the two reservations suffer from depression.

The testing given by her U. Neb. students was "much needed," Anderson said.

Anderson's students handed out Beck Depression Inventories at the Omaha Nation Public School, Walthill School, and at the Blackhawk Community Center. The inventory has 21 multiple choice questions.  Individuals filled out the inventory themselves, then UNO students measured depression severity.

 

The stats:
20% of adolescents on the Omaha reservations suffer from depression.
In comparison,
8% of the general U.S. population suffers from depression.

"This is a problem in these communities," Anderson said. She attributes it to many issues including poverty, dysfunctional families and unemployment.

Donna Wolff is a suicide prevention speaker who lost her son to suicide. She stressed the importance of how screenings and prevention programs.

"The screenings are such a valuable tool to use to help show the schools how many kids are suffering from depression," Wolff said.

Wolff gave a presentation to students about depression and suicide. She hoped student response to her message would:

Give them permission to tell someone how much they are suffering
Show them the destruction that suicide has on a family after a completion;
Show them that there is hope to not have to be silent anymore.

"Suicide and depression and mental illness are all topics that need to be talked about openly in our society now," Wolff said. "So many people are walking around with open wounds on the inside of their brains that no one can see. But they need professional medical help."

Anderson said her university students have helped the reservations.

Tribal leaders needed research to help combat the issue of suicides. These screening results will be used to find funding for depression and suicide prevention programs.
University students referred troubling cases to school officials. This enabled administration to focus on students needing the most attention.  
Many cases were referred to psychologists or counselors because some students indicated they were making final arrangements, like giving away possessions or saying goodbyes.

Annesha Mitra is a U. Neb senior double majoring in neuroscience and psychology. "It was just a little scary that kids around the ages of 11 to 17 could be that unhappy that they wanted to end their life," she said  "It was just sad."

She also felt she and her classmates made a difference. "Even if it was just 2 or 3 lives that we were able to save, its still better than none," Mitra said. "And that makes me feel like we did something to make a difference."

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