California is home to more tribal communities than any other state in the country. In November, the nation recognizes the vibrant history, culture, and traditions of Native Americans while also acknowledging the disparities that have historically faced these communities.
Check out this article from NAMI:
Native Communities of Care Toolkit
Each Mind Matters has resources on the impact of mental illness and maintaining mental health for Native Americans, including a collection of personal stories, Native American behavioral health providers, and a comprehensive Native Communities of Care Toolkit.
Community Member Highlight: Rudy Caseres
Since an early age, Rudy dealt with feelings of depression. When he graduated from high school, he thought he would be able to escape all the troubles that made his childhood traumatizing.
However when he joined the Army, his mental health condition worsened due to the constant pressure enforced onto him. Rudy experienced a mental breakdown and was discharged. With no one to talk to, especially his family, due to feelings of shame and guilt, Rudy stayed silent. This led to him sinking into several years of depression. During this time, he was unable to hold down a job or be involved in a serious relationship, and he was constantly breaking commitments with friends and family.
His life changed once he experienced his first manic episode. After coming down from the mania, he chose to get treatment. Rudy was initially diagnosed with schizophrenia because of his catatonic episode in the army. He didn’t hear voices or have hallucinations but received treatment for schizophrenia for several years anyway. After his first manic episode his diagnosis was changed to bipolar disorder which he is successfully getting treated for today. Rudy in an interview said, “I’m glad I was finally able to receive a diagnosis that I felt truly fit the symptoms I was experiencing. It took a long time mostly because I was in denial but now I have no problem openly discussing my diagnosis.”
Rudy tried many different medications and several therapists to varying success but the thing that helps him cope above all is sharing his story publicly. Rudy commented, “I couldn’t do it without acceptance and I’m thankful NAMI has given me a platform to succeed in life.”
To Rudy recovery is continuing to share his story even on days where he does not want to get out of bed. He says, “I wish I could go out and share my story every single day because that is what helps me cope and it’s what ties my whole recovery together.”
After several years of Rudy hiding his mental illness, he started coming out slowly to close friends. Then he shared his story online a couple years ago so that everyone could know. His closest friends kept on loving him liked they always have.
In his communities, Rudy explained that in Mexican-American and Native American families mental illness can often be seen as a personal weakness, especially among men. He has been told to stop whining or just pray or take this root or drink this tea. Today Rudy works on educating people in communities all over California about mental health. When he is not giving a NAMI presentation at school, hospitals, or juvenile halls, he is spreading the work on Facebook and other social media platforms engaging with not only friends and family but with people all over the world.
Rudy says, “I didn’t think I would ever be successful in anything and I certainly didn’t think I’d find success in anything having to do with mental illness but now I feel as if this is my calling in life and I’m very excited for my future and educating people all over the world!”
Feature Affiliate: NAMI San Diego
NAMI San Diego has been working diligently this month to lay a foundation for future collaboration with the Native American community. NAMI San Diego will be participating in the Winter Wonderland onDecember 7, 2017 with a resource table. The Winter Wonderland is one of the largest events in eastern San Diego County for children and families, where NAMI San Diego will have the opportunity to distribute mental health resources to many members of the Native American community. Then, in January, they will be meeting with the seven members tribal consortium, which includes Manzanita, Barona, Campo, Jamul, La Posta, Viejas & Ewiiaapaayp.