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NIMH Outreach Program Meets in Santa Fe

The fourth annual meeting of the Constituency Outreach and Education Program of the National Institute of Mental Health was held in Santa Fe, N.M., recently. Attendees included the NIMH Outreach Partners, representing 51 non-profit organizations, one from every state and the District of Columbia. The mission of the program is to encourage outreach activities that will increase public awareness of the importance of basic and clinical research, improve the diagnosis and treatment of mental illnesses and eliminate disparities in mental health related to race, culture, age and gender.

The Dancing Horse Drum Group, which promotes an alcohol and drug-free lifestyle through traditional Native American values, and Frank Fragua, spiritual leader and substance abuse counselor from Jemez Pueblo, provided the opening ceremony for the meeting.

Musicians Fred Sandoval and Rachel Saiz performed at the meeting in Santa Fe.

NIMH director Dr. Thomas Insel gave the keynote address, highlighting promising research advances in the area of human genomics, schizophrenia and other mental illnesses. Dr. Richard Nakamura, NIMH deputy director, provided an overview of progress in substance abuse research with a focus on neuroscience, and Dr. Robert Glover, executive director of the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors, defined and discussed co-occurring disorders and illustrated the need for integrated treatment of mental illnesses and substance abuse.

An extensive overview of suicide statistics and prevention resources in the United States was provided by Dr. Jane Pearson, who chairs the NIMH Suicide Research Consortium. Dr. Fran Norris, NIMH grantee at the National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Department of Veterans Affairs, presented research on the psychological consequences of terrorism, disasters and mass violence. Glover followed up with a talk stressing the importance of including mental health considerations in every state's "all-hazards" planning.

Reflecting the program's emphasis on eliminating mental health disparities among minority and other underserved populations, several NIMH grantees addressed the needs of American Indians and Hispanics/Latinos. Dr. Spero Manson, University of Colorado, and Dr. Tassy Parker, University of New Mexico, provided helpful resources and useful insights for partners working with American Indian and Alaska Native populations. Dr. Ernest Marquez, NIMH associate director for special populations, introduced the topic of overcoming mental health disparities among Hispanic and other populations, and Dr. Sergio Aguilar-Gaxiola, California State University/Fresno, presented results of an NIMH-supported study on mental health among Mexican Americans and Mexican migrant workers.

Patrick Cody, former vice president for communications, National Mental Health Association, and Pulitzer Prize winner Eric Newhouse, a reporter with the Great Falls (Montana) Tribune, presented a session on what Outreach Partners can do to improve media coverage of mental health issues, particularly on how to combat stigma and help ensure accurate reporting of scientific findings.

During the meeting, Outreach Partners shared innovative outreach strategies targeting a wide range of audiences, through plenary and breakout discussions, a poster session and informal networking.

Information about the NIMH Constituency Outreach and Education Program is available at www.outreach.nimh.nih.gov.


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