Mental Health Challenges in Native Communities

Native American and Alaskan Native communities face significant mental health challenges. These communities have disproportionately higher rates of mental health problems, such as suicide, post-traumatic stress disorder, violence, and substance use disorders, compared to the general U.S. population. American Indians and Alaska Natives report experiencing serious psychological distress 2.5 times more than the general population over a month’s time. Factors contributing to these disparities include historical trauma, socioeconomic challenges, and limited access to culturally competent mental health care.

Therapy Options for Native American/Alaskan Native Community

There are several therapy options available for Native American/Alaskan Native communities, including:

1. Indian Health Service (IHS): IHS provides federal health services to American Indian and Alaska Native people and is the principal federal healthcare provider and health advocate for these populations. IHS offers integrated health and wellness services that are holistic and culturally appropriate.

2. Telebehavioral Health Services: Telehealth services can help provide mental health care to Native American/Alaskan Native communities in rural and isolated areas. These services can include individual online counseling for anxiety and depression, online group therapy, treatment related to substance use disorder, and telepsychiatry.

3. Culturally Adapted Interventions: Some mental health programs integrate traditional healing, spiritual values, and cultural identification into their treatment programs. This approach can help make mental health care more accessible and effective for Native American/Alaskan Native communities.

4. Community-Based Programs: Local organizations, such as the Denver Indian Center[24], offer mental health support and resources tailored to the needs of Native American/Alaskan Native communities.

Cultural Factors Impacting Native American/Alaskan Native Mental Health

Cultural factors play a significant role in the mental health of Native American/Alaskan Native communities. Historical trauma, forced assimilation, and discrimination have contributed to mental health disparities in these communities[2]. Additionally, cultural beliefs and practices related to mental health may differ from standard diagnostic categories and treatment approaches, making it essential for mental health care providers to be culturally competent and sensitive to the unique needs of Native American/Alaskan Native individuals.

Addressing Mental Health Disparities in Native American/Alaskan Native Communities

To address mental health disparities in Native American/Alaskan Native communities, it is crucial to:

1. Increase awareness of mental health issues and their connection to chronic diseases
2. Improve access to mental health care by addressing barriers such as inadequate funding, rural and isolated locations, mistrust of government services, and lack of cultural competence.
3. Develop and implement culturally competent mental health interventions that integrate traditional healing practices and respect the unique cultural beliefs of Native American/Alaskan Native communities
4. Collaborate with tribal governments, organizations, and community members to identify and address the specific mental health needs of Native American/Alaskan Native populations.

Supporting Native American/Alaskan Native Mental Health During the Holiday Season

The holiday season can be a challenging time for many people, including Native American/Alaskan Native individuals. To support mental health during this time, it is essential to:

1. Encourage open communication and provide a safe space for individuals to share their feelings and concerns.
2. Offer culturally appropriate mental health resources and support services, such as crisis hotlines, support groups, and counseling services.
3. Promote self-care and stress management techniques, such as mindfulness exercises, meditation, and traditional healing practices.
4. Foster a sense of community and connection by organizing cultural events and activities that celebrate Native American/Alaskan Native heritage and traditions.

By addressing the unique mental health challenges faced by Native American/Alaskan Native communities and providing culturally competent care, we can help improve the overall well-being of these populations.

The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. If you are in a crisis or any other person may be in danger,  these resources can provide you with immediate help:
Suicide and Crisis Lifeline 988
24 Hour Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1.800.273.8255
Crisis Text Line Text TALK to 741741