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NIMH Holds Dialogue Meeting in Desert Southwest

"Dialogue Four Corners: Mental Health," a public outreach meeting sponsored by the National Institute of Mental Health, was held on Apr. 24 in Albuquerque, N.M., to focus on mental health issues in the Four Corners region of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah.

NIMH teamed with other NIH components, federal agencies and state partners to provide information and resources to about 350 people. Participants also attended workshops and a consumer health fair, which included the National Library of Medicine's online demonstration of how to use the computer to locate health information.

Dr. Thomas Insel
Traditional American Indian and Hispanic welcomes and songs opened the meeting; greetings were given by Dr. Samuel Keith, chair of the department of psychiatry, University of New Mexico, which cosponsored the meeting; Surgeon General Richard Carmona saluted the participants via video. The agenda, developed with input from health care professionals, advocates and consumers in each of the Four Corners states, provided participants with an overview of cutting-edge research relevant to the region. Reports on the importance of studying how mental illnesses co-occur with alcohol and substance abuse and other physical disorders included a talk by Dr. Patrick Lustman from Washington University, who discussed his research on the relationship between depression and diabetes.

Other topics presented by NIH-supported grantees included suicide, cultural relevance in conducting research with American Indian and Hispanic populations, barriers to seeking and receiving treatment, and the benefits of research. Topics for small discussion groups focused on special concerns of the aging population, child and adolescent mental health, traditional healing and careers in mental health research in the Four Corners region. The career breakout group, led by Dr. Ernest Marquez, director, Office for Special Populations, NIMH, offered high school and college students and faculty information on opportunities for young people, women and under-represented minorities to pursue careers in mental health research.

Dr. Tassy Parker (l) of the University of New Mexico and Kevin Shendo (c) of the Pueblo of Jemez talk with a participant.

Recommendations from all the breakout groups will help NIMH fulfill its research mission. Breakout topics and questions can be found at http://www.nimh.nih.gov/events/fourcornersgroup.pdf.

On Apr. 23, additional activities included a grant information workshop designed to give researchers and those interested in pursuing research an opportunity to hear from and meet with representatives from all of the participating federal agencies: NIDA, NIAAA, NLM, NIDDK, NIGMS, NIA, the Indian Health Service, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the Social Security Administration. In addition to networking opportunities, participants learned about the grants application process.

Concurrent with the workshop were field visits to several locations — Espaņola, N.M., Gila River Reservation, Ariz.; and Gallup, N.M. and Window Rock, Ariz., the capital of Navajo Nation — where major challenges and opportunities for research were discussed with community members. The field visits allowed small groups of researchers, presenters and NIH scientists to see firsthand the unique problems faced by people in these communities, tour facilities, talk to providers and consumers and begin to establish longer-term networks. These communities represent the diversity of the region and demonstrate issues affecting the Hispanic and American Indian communities including alcohol and substance abuse, poverty, lack of behavioral health services and suicide.

NIMH has been conducting a series of dialogue meetings to share information; since 1999, the institute has organized four other dialogues in Alaska, Texas, Pittsburgh and Chicago, described at http://www.nimh.nih.gov/events/townmeetings.cfm. The email address set up for the Four Corners conference (nimhfourcorners@mail.nih.gov) will continue to receive comments until June 30.

Audience participants and NIH staff listen to speakers.

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