July is Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. Each year, SAMHSA joins the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health to promote the message that prevention works, treatment is effective, and people recover. This month also presents an opportunity to reflect on how the behavioral health system can connect more effectively with people across different cultural backgrounds and experiences.
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Access to health care coverage that includes services for mental health and/or substance use disorders is critical for everyone. This is especially true for the American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) community, which faces some significant behavioral health challenges. According to a 2013 SAMHSA report, the rate of substance dependence or abuse among AI/ANs aged 12 or older was higher than any other population group. Among U.S. adolescents ages 12 to 17, Native youth have the highest lifetime prevalence of major depressive episodes. In addition, suicide is the second leading cause of death—2.5 times the national rate—for Native male youth in the 15 to 24 year old age group.