Indigenous youth take on mental health, wellness challenge

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Friday told a virtual gathering of Indigenous youth that there are no excuses for government not do whatever it can to improve their quality of life and to bolster programs aimed at preventing youth suicide.

She made the remarks during a summit organized by the state, other partners and the Indigenous Youth Council, which is a panel of young people from Native American communities around New Mexico.

Lujan Grisham said conversations about wellness and mental health shouldn't focus on how expensive or difficult it might be address the issues if there's a chance that lives can be saved by making more programs and services available to youth in their own communities.

The governor also challenged council members to tap into their cultural values and their own experiences as they look for solutions.

“Make no mistake that your state needs you,” she said. “We respect you and we value that you will help guide us to investments and programs and services and opportunities that can change the course of so many lives in this state.”

The summit is the result of numerous calls by tribal leadership and youth to improve access to behavioral and mental health services, particularly amid the pandemic. Indigenous communities were hit hard as internet connectivity and the lack of other basic infrastructure complicated matters.