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November is Native American Heritage Month. Today, two psychiatrists who have worked with Indigenous peoples join us to talk about the struggles and protective factors associated with Indigenous mental health and how mental health professionals and others can become better advocates for Indigenous/Native American communities.
Mary Hasbah Roessel, M.D., is a Navajo (Diné) psychiatrist from Round Rock, Arizona on the Navajo nation. She is a distinguished life fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and current APA Area 7 Trustee and works in Santa Fe, New Mexico at the Santa Fe Indian Health Center. She received her medical degree at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis and returned to the southwest to complete her residency in psychiatry at the University of New Mexico. She received an APA/ NIMH Fellowship during her residency and has since worked for 30 years with Indigenous peoples of the southwest, Alaska, and British Columbia. She has special expertise in cultural psychiatry. She grew up on the Navajo reservation with her family and extended Navajo family. Her grandfather Ashihii, was a revered Navajo medicine man. She was the lead facilitator to the Indigenous Cultural competency course working with the American Psychiatric Association’s Division of Diversity and Health Equity. She is a member of the Climate Psychiatry Alliance and APA Caucus on Climate Change and Mental Health. She presented on a panel discussing Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in March 2016. She has provided presentations on Indigenous knowledge and climate change and wrote a chapter in the book:Groundswell- Indigenous knowledge and a call to action for climate change, edited by her husband, Joe Neidhardt, M.D., and daughter/artist, Nicole Neidhardt. Her chapter is on Essential Elements of Change, focused on living within two worlds—Indigenous and Western cultures in this climate crisis. She presented at COP26 in Glasgow, in November 2021 with her husband and daughter. The title of their presentation was: Walk In Beauty: Future Dreaming Through Indigenous Knowledges and Western Science. She enjoys spending time with her family hiking and participating in Navajo ceremonies in New Mexico and Arizona.
Monica Taylor-Desir, M.D., MPH is a Consultant with the Department of Psychiatry and Psychology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, where she serves as a community psychiatrist for the Olmsted County Assertive Community Treatment Team and as the co-chair for the Diversity and Inclusion Committee for the Mayo Midwest Department of Psychiatry and Psychology. Prior to joining Mayo Clinic, Dr. Taylor-Desir served as a community psychiatrist for tribal communities for 16 years. Dr. Taylor-Desir graduated from the University Of Cincinnati College Of Medicine. After completing her psychiatry residency and a fellowship in community psychiatry at Emory University, Dr. Taylor-Desir began her career with the Winslow Indian Health Care Center in Winslow, AZ working with a predominantly Navajo population. This work was through her commitment to the National Health Service Corps as a Scholarship recipient. Dr. Taylor-Desir then moved to Phoenix, Arizona to serve the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community for eight years. She was the first tribally hired psychiatrist and provided outpatient psychiatric care to community members, worked with the crisis team, the Salt River Department of Corrections and the community residential treatment center. She also worked to secure psychiatric care between state and tribal jurisdictions. Dr. Taylor-Desir then moved to New Town, North Dakota to serve the Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara Nation for three years as their Chief Medical Officer and psychiatrist for the Elbowoods Memorial Health Care Center. She was instrumental in securing SAMHSA grants addressing mental health and substance use in tribal communities. One of her proudest honors is receiving the American Psychiatric Association 2019 Award for Excellence in Service and Advocacy from the Women of the Assembly. Dr. Taylor-Desir also serves as a member of the National Advisory Committee to the National Health Service Corps, where she continues advocacy for and service to tribal and rural communities.