The problem is that there is often a lack of knowledge about the historical and cultural context that characterizes life for Sami.
- I have often felt that the effort to get the right help requires that you are healthy. You have to be able to fight for your rights. You have the right to get the right care. I have lived in southern Sweden, where there was specialist care, but it was difficult to get there, says Merethe Kuhmunen.
Katarina Kielatis has also sought care for mental illness, but travels as far as 150 km easy way to meet a therapist with the right skills.
- It's easier if you live in a big city, if you live in Stockholm. I got help in Stockholm but when I moved home to Jokkmokk there was only one therapist. But now I go to SANKS in Karasjok and it's great, then I'm there three to four days at a time, she says."You should not have to explain so much"
SANKS is a Sami national center for mental health that also works with substance abuse problems. It is located on the Norwegian side of Sapmi and is headquartered in northern Karasjok. SANKS also trains care staff to help Sami patients and users, and conducts research to develop mental health care for Sami.
- On the Norwegian side, it is thought that the Sami need special health care. We have knowledge of the Sami circumstances - social conditions, history, minority health and so on. You should not have to explain so much when you seek help, says Anne Silviken, researcher and psychologist at SANKS.
- Many Sami live in small towns, it becomes very visible when you seek help locally. But it is tragic that you have to travel so far to get the right care. That should not be the case in 2020, she says."Competence does not exist in Sweden"
Risten Utsi is a district physician and one of two county coordinates for the knowledge network for Sami health in Norrbotten. She confirms the image that many lack the Sami competence in care.
- At present, Sweden cannot offer care in Sami or care with Sami cultural competence at a specialist level. The goal is to build that competence here as well, but it will take time. Until then, we are dependent on a collaboration with SANKS, says Risten Utsi.