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Mental Health in the U.S. Indigenous Community

Updated: Sep 8, 2023

By: Tanaziona Lucious

One of the least talked about ethnicity when it comes to mental is the Indigenous/Native Americans, the term Native/Indigenous refers to all groups of people who live in the United States prior to colonization by the Europeans.

There are huge amounts of diversity in the U.S. Indigenous communities, and many of these communities share cultural ideas and practices. Those ideas include nurturing strong family bonds, sharing bonds with the past and with others in the community, having a close attachment to land and nature, following the wisdom of Elders and fostering significant tradition are generally shared as part of their identity.

Many of their shared cultural experiences are protective mechanisms for their mental health, but many members of the Indigenous communities carry many burdens, which includes political and economic ostracism, education discrepancies, and mental health and discrimination challenges that are embedded in a long history of trauma.

There are many barriers as to why receiving mental health care in an indigenous community may be difficult, some examples include:

  • Inadequate Funding

  • Rural and Isolated Locations

  • Mistrust of Government services

  • Lack of cultural competence

  • Language Barrier

When the tribal nation agreed to exchange their land, they were guaranteed health, safety, and welfare of their communities, but instead the federal government have underfunded and created many challenges for the Indian Health Service (IHS).

Another challenge is finding appropriate mental health services to meet their needs. Since many, but not all Indigenous people live in rural and isolated areas it may be hard to get sufficient help, with how underfunded they are. Access is further limited due to majority of the clinics and hospitals withing the HIS are located on reservations, and majority of Indigenous/Natives live outside of the tribal areas.

Indigenous people have been mistreated by the government for years upon years, those mistreatments include, forced removal from their land, effort to erase native culture, and broken treaties, many people in the Indigenous/Native communities don’t trust the services they are provided by the federal government.

Having a healthcare professional that is not culturally competent always plays a major role in the lack of Indigenous/Natives seeking out help. Many members of the native community have fundamentally different ideas of what mental health is compared to the westernized version, as a result they may not see the value in treatments that are offered.

The language barrier also plays a role in Indigenous/Native people seeking professional help. For instance, the words “anxious” and “depressed” are absent in the Native languages. Data shows that 372,000 indigenous/Native people speak a language other than English when they’re in the confines of their own home. In addition to already having a challenging time speaking about their feelings, it can be even more frustrating when they don’t really understand the accurate meaning of what the provider is trying to say.

Mental health should be something that all people should have access to no matter their race, ethnicity, gender, or anything else that makes them the person they are. Life is stressful already having someone to talk to about your emotions and feelings without the fear of being judged and ridicule will alleviate the pressure that you carry.

For more information you can visit our website ,, or call our number,216-526-1843, and speak to someone in the office today on how to sign up to receive our care.


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