FLANDREAU, S.D. (AP) - Like all soldiers returning from the Iraq War, Dennis Quigley met with a mental health professional before his return to civilian life.
Quigley, a member of the Rosebud Sioux tribe, had the 15- to 20-minute meeting at the Veterans' Administration and he was on his way. But he says that was far too little time for a proper diagnosis and understanding of how his American Indian culture would shape his transition back to civilian life as a veteran.
``So they end up doing a lot of Band-Aiding on these hidden wounds that are so prevalent,'' Quigley said, adding that post-traumatic stress disorder is prevalent and suicide rates have skyrocketed among American Indian veterans.
Quigley is bringing together about 60 veterans and tribal leaders from South Dakota's nine tribes for a conference this week in an effort to address the issues facing American Indian veterans. The three-day event, beginning Tuesday at the Royal River Casino in Flandreau, will focus on better practices and guidelines for Native American veterans struggling to adjust to civilian life.
The problem, Quigley said, is that many of the mental health professionals take a one-size-fits-all approach to veterans and don't realize the role culture plays among veterans who are Native American.
``Everything is about non-Indian veterans,'' he said. ``So we just struggle along on our own. Our culture says that we don't put ourselves out there. It's hard to get the Indian perspective.''
For example, he said, not all Native Americans diagnosed with PTSD or another disorder want to take medication, but they are often told to.
``Some people should be on medication, but you can't expect everyone to willingly submit to all these medications. With our culture, we don't use medication,'' he said.
Quigley said the conference is also a chance to show appreciation for the veterans' service. A wacipi, or powwow, is scheduled for Wednesday night as a way to honor the American Indian veterans.
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