Allie Shah, Star Tribune, June 28, 2015
Watch how The Center for Mind-Body Medicine’s work with the Lakota Tribe is making a difference in their community
American Indians on the Pine Ridge and Rosebud Reservations and in Rapid City, South Dakota, face some of the most difficult challenges of any indigenous population. The counties that make up Pine Ridge are among the poorest in the United States with unemployment estimated at 80%. This economic catastrophe is compounded by centuries of oppression, misunderstanding, marginalization, and neglect; it has taken a serious toll on the physical, psychological, and spiritual wellbeing of all who live there.
Though Native people throughout North America suffer disproportionately from cardiovascular disease (CVD), tuberculosis, diabetes, cancer, substance abuse-related diseases, motor vehicle accidents, unintentional injuries, and homicide and suicide, these Great Plains Tribes have the highest rates of all. Native peoples in Minnesota, though somewhat better off economically, also face enormous challenges, compounded by feelings of alienation from their traditional cultures as well as the dominant white society.
Tribal communities are doing their best to mobilize themselves to deal with these challenges, combining western medicine with the wisdom and practices of traditional healing and attention to the needs of individuals, with strengthening the resources of families and communities. Still, the obstacles are formidable and the level and extent of the suffering discouraging.
Now, these Native communities, on and off the reservation, have asked CMBM to train their leaders in our model so they can use it throughout their health, mental health, educational and social welfare organizations in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and South Dakota – so they can make it their own. Read about how CMBM is serving Lakota peoples, in this article from the Lakota Country Times.
The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation has long suffered from staggering suicide rates. To combat this epidemic, Lakota elder Basil Brave Heart invited CMBM to bring our model of self-care and mutual support to Pine Ridge. CMBM Faculty have offered free self-care workshops in Pine Ridge for local community leaders and health professionals from hospitals, schools, detention centers, and health boards.
The results of our work have been transformational. In our third year in Pine Ridge, we documented a reduction in suicidal completion by 25-40%, a reduction in suicidal ideation by 55-60%, a reduction in suicide attempts by 35-55%, and an overall improvement in mood by 50-65%.
Key educators and health professionals believe the approach will significantly enhance their daily work as well as their relations with their families and communities. They believe practicing the skills will reduce stress, improve coping skills, and enhance resilience throughout health, mental health, educational and social welfare services.
During this time, CMBM has also begun work with Native elders living in Minneapolis, forging a close partnership with the Minnesota Indian Womens Resource Center. Two elders, Linda Eagle Speaker and Donna LaChapelle, have completed CMBM certification. Together, they are combining our approach with traditional healing ceremonies in a creative synthesis which is bringing hope and healing to trafficked girls and homeless women.
Over 400 Pine Ridge residents are fully-trained in the CMBM model. Some 3,000 children and adults have participated in Mind-Body Skills Groups, and another 3,500 have participated in workshops. Community leaders have also integrated mind-body skills into K-5 elementary school curricula, and have reached an additional 2,600 students. These numbers are a testament to the effectiveness of our program of self-care and mutual support in Pine Ridge and serve as a model for work with Native and indigenous peoples throughout the Midwest and elsewhere.
See our mind-body medicine techniques in action with Native American communities at Leech Lake Tribal College, led by certified CMBM alumni Linda EagleSpeaker and Donna LaChapelle with CMBM Clinical Lead for Native Programs and Senior Faculty Kathy Farah, MD, and Lora Matz, MS, LICSW, made possible by generous support from The George Family Foundation’s Catalyst Initiative.