New UI center addresses generational trauma and well-being of Native American youth and community

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The new center will address trauma and encourage resilience among Native American communities.


Many Native American and Alaska Native children face trauma, including bullying and sexual abuse, natural disasters, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

A new center at the University of Iowa aims to help treat, reduce and prevent trauma among Indigenous people.

In October 2021, the UI College of Public Health received a $3 million grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to establish the National American Indian and Alaska Native Trauma and Service Adaptation Center, or TSA.

Teresa Brewington, TSA co-director, Coharie Tribe member and descendant of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina, said the center’s goal is to increase net national infrastructure and workplace capacity.

“We work with professionals to prevent, reduce and treat trauma, as well as to increase the well-being and resilience of Native American and Alaska Native children and adolescents and their families, as this is our focus group said Brewington.

Anne Helene Skinstad, co-director of the TSA and director of the Native Center for Behavioral Health, has worked with tribal communities for more than 25 years. She said that while TSA targets trauma experienced primarily by K-12 youth, the center focuses on workforce development among those who work closely with Native American children.

“A lot of non-natives work with native children, and if they’re not educated on how to care for the cultures represented in the classroom, it can mean a traumatic experience for the children,” Skinstad said.

The center has a variety of initiatives to address trauma in Native youth, Skinstad said, including working with adoptive parents of Native children to prevent split-feather syndrome — the estrangement from Native American culture that can cause psychological problems such as depression and substance abuse.

Another initiative the center has created is a National Youth Panel with Indigenous youth ages 16-24 who are actively involved in their communities and culture.

“The goal is A: to talk about different topics and raise awareness, but B: to talk about their personal stories, their pitfalls or their triumphs, in order to teach confidence and resilience and to inspire other young indigenous people to do the same,” says Brewington.

Keely Driscoll, a descendant of the Meskwaki Nation, youth panel member and student assistant for the UI Native Center for Behavioral Health, said the upcoming youth panel will discuss the generational trauma experienced by many Native Americans and the resilience that comes with the navigation. trauma.

“I think it’s important to understand history and how it affects different rates of depression, addiction, anxiety, all of those things that we work with at the center,” Driscoll said. “So really trying to address issues and overcome some of these persistent barriers is happening right now, not only by programs like an Indigenous center, but also by young people in their own communities.”

Brewington said the center aims to expand its services and resources over time and already has an extensive network of Indigenous professionals helping to improve and deliver their current services.

“That’s something the Aboriginal people have said and said very loudly –– they want to learn and grow on their own,” Brewington said.

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