American Indians and Alaska Natives (Indians, Eskimos, and Aleuts), referred to here as Indians/Natives, are very diverse in culture and language. More than 4 million Americans, approximately 1.5% of the U.S. population, identify themselves as having American Indian or Alaska Native heritage.
As a group, Indians/Natives face a number of challenges. The rate of poverty of Indians/Natives is more than twice the national average and unemployment among Indians/Natives is 2.5 times higher. Life expectancy is 6 years lower than the national average and the rate of violent victimization is twice as high. Historical traumas, including forced relocations and cultural assimilation, broken treaties, and other social, economic, and political injustices continue to affect Indian/Native communities
Mental Health Issues
Indians/Natives experience most mental disorders in rates similar to the overall population. However, recent research suggests that Indians/Natives experience far greater psychological distress than the general population and are at greater risk for some mental disorders.
The most significant mental health concerns among Indians/Natives today are depression, substance abuse, and anxiety, including posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In some Indian groups, but not all, alcoholism and illicit drug use disorder rates are much higher than U.S. average. Even among groups of Indians/Natives with high rates of alcohol abuse, most Indian people are not alcoholics.
Cultural factors can influence how people feel or describe mental health and their acceptance of mental health and treatment. Among Indians/Native people, the concept of mental health has different meanings and interpretations. Often physical concerns and psychological concerns are not separated and emotional distress may be expressed in different ways.
Many Indians/Natives have difficulty accessing mental health services because of economic barriers, social and cultural differences, mistrust, and the lack of providers
With proper treatment, most symptoms of mental health can be controlled.
One Sky Center - a National Resource Center for American Indian and Alaska Native Health, Education and Research.