In honor of Indigenous People’s Day, this month we are taking a deeper look into Indigenous mental health challenges that date back to a long history of trauma. The National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) reports, “nearly a quarter (22%) of Native adults experienced mental illness in the last year. Some studies have shown alcohol and other drug use at younger ages, and at higher rates than other ethnic groups. Suicide rates for Native youth are exceedingly high, over double the rate of white youth.”
Indigenous people have trouble with their identity because of the misleading names the Europeans gave them including “Native Americans” and “Indians.” While the term “Indigenous” is more widely used, many prefer to use their tribe names, which is what they used before Europe colonized America. Many Indigenous people consider themselves to have their Native identity and “American” identity because of this. Additionally, forced assimilation, which started with Indian Residential Schools and still exists today, has put Indigenous traditions such as prayer and ceremonies in danger. These traditions are often part of Indigenous mental health.
When Indigenous people are looking for mental health care, it is important to ask the providers questions. NAMI says some of the questions to ask are, “Have you treated other Indigenous people? Have you received training in spirituality or traditional practices? How do you see our cultural backgrounds influencing our communication and my treatment? Do you have training in trauma-informed care?” The relationship between a person and their mental health provider is important. If you are not feeling heard and respected, you should try a different provider.
This article has been professionally peer reviewed by Director of Cornerstone Consultants, Dr. Amy Trout, and founding advisory committee member for the Uyeno Foundation. You can learn more about Dr. Trout’s work and expertise by visiting https://www.cornerstonecape.com/.