Mental health workers are looking for new ways to help Native American service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan who are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. In some parts of the United States, specialists are combining modern treatments with traditional healing methods, employing medicine men, participating in sweat lodges, and asking tribal elders to encourage veterans to seek professional medical help.
But in New England, the effort to reach out to Native American veterans is lagging, mental health specialists and some Native Americans say. At risk, they say, are thousands of Native American veterans, who historically are more susceptible to combat trauma than other troops, but who also are less likely to seek, and receive, mental health help from government-operated agencies as their non-Indian comrades.
Studies of Native American veterans who fought in Vietnam showed that they were twice as likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder as other veterans. Although no one has studied the prevalence of trauma among Native American veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, mental health workers anticipate that those troops may suffer from similarly high levels of trauma.
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