A seminar on meth and suicide prevention was held on July 13 at the Salt River Community Building. Presented by a training company called Inspire.Motivate.Lead and hosted by the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Health and Human Services Division, the event was especially designed to provide essential and up-to-date solutions for strengthening tribal communities through effective prevention programming. There were 102 participants from all over the Valley.
LeAndra Bitsie and Jeremy Fields of Inspire.Motivate.Lead. (www.imltraining.com) provide up-to-date training and solutions for strengthening tribal communities through effective prevention programming. This includes service training, leadership development and character-building for youth and adults.
The purpose of the Meth and Suicide Prevention Seminar was to bring people together to see what approaches other tribal communities are taking to work together and prevent the negative effects of meth and suicide in Indian Country.
This conference focused on the cultural concepts of people in Indian Country.
Topics discussed were defining the principles of identity, the dynamics of personal empowerment, internal and external influences, adult attitudes and working with youth, and solutions to high-risk behavior. Other topics included identifying some of the issues that young people face—what are they thinking about, and are older people and younger people connecting with each other?
“Many walked away with knowledge of how to work with these topics and others said that they wanted more intervention tools, such as learning how to intervene with suicidal individuals,” said Debbie Manuel, Community health educator for SRPMIC Health Services. “But this is a crucial tool to learn and be prepared.”
Tribes Share the Same Struggles
Fields welcomed the attendees and shared some of his and Bitsie’s experiences and lessons learned from their travels. Every year they travel to more than 85 tribal communities.
“Even though we come from different tribes, we all have the same problems, and the same personalities facing the same struggles,” he said.
The group is trying to understand where the generation gaps are in communication with elders and younger community members. If the communication is off sync, then how can it become realigned? How can adults and youth engage in conversation with each other and form stronger relationships? A good example of this, Manuel said, is when an adult talks with a teenager, asking questions, but the only reply the teenager ever gives is “I don’t know.” The trainers discussed how they can come up with solutions for engaging the youth so teens feel a sense of ownership over what they do each day and what they are planning to do in the future.
“In prevention programming, we want to give you a redirection. As a Native person, there is this thing that we suffer from called ‘historical trauma,’ where we tend to look backwards and see what has happened to our people,” said Fields.
Fields asked the audience to look at everything our people have faced over the last 500-plus years and how we were intended to be prevented from living, surviving and thriving.
“And even today we are relying on prevention to fix our problems, but we are human beings, we have a spirit, we have an ability to be determined by ourselves,” he said. “When you take that context of that trauma and you set it aside, you allow yourself to understand that there is an actual person sitting there who has a living, breathing spirit that is trying to move forward, live and thrive.”
Family Focus and Communication
“The whole idea was to implement several areas for prevention and intervention, so they focused on youth for the early part of the presentation, then gradually moved on to a family focus,” said Manuel about the seminar. “We want to know how families communicate with each other, how they connect and how their worlds come together.”
During this year, Manuel said that Health and Human Services had to find ways to integrate traditional culture foundlanguage was a common thread and valued by family.
“When people all agree and believe in a certain philosophy, whether it be indigenous or christianity , or as long as they have a focus, no matter who they are, they will do very well,” Manuel said about families. “But if the focus is unclear and parents are not shaping a sense of direction, discipline or focus, then kids go into survival mode and try to figure out for themselves what they have to do.”
When children have reached this mode, they become desperate, unaware and confused. This often makes the younger the child more prone to negative influences out in the world.
The seminar emphasized that you can do anything and overcome any barrier in your life if you have sense of wellness and positive strong personal beliefs and are secure in who you are as an individual.
As an example, Manuel reflected on what Field’s said, take someone who is inspiring, who is involved in powwows or wins in sports championships in tournaments. “If we were to take that away from them, can they still walk away proud that they are Native American? Can they still fulfill their responsibilities to their community and to their families? And if they can, then how are they doing that?” she asked. “How do you fulfill your own integrity and your sense of responsibility?” These were some of the examples discussed by the seminar participants.
The MSPI Grant was awarded in 2009 for three years and recently applied for a fourth year funding and provides prevention for SRPMIC ; The program looks forward to planning more events during it’s fourth year.
For more information on upcoming prevention seminars, contact Department Health and Human Services at (480) 362-5500.