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Mental Health America works nationally and locally to raise awareness about mental health and ensures that those at-risk for mental illnesses and related disorders receive proper, timely and effective treatment. MHA incorporates culturally competent strategies to ensure that it is effectively addressing the treatment and psychosocial needs of consumers and families with diverse values, beliefs, sexual orientations, and backgrounds that vary by race, ethnicity and/or language.

Demographics/Societal Issues

Cultural Factors

  • Many Native/Indigenous tribes embrace a worldview that encompasses the notions of connectedness (with the past and with others), strong family bonds, adaptability, oneness with nature, wisdom of elders, meaningful traditions and strong spirit that may serve as protective factors when it comes to mental health.


Treatment Issues

  • The concept of mental illness and beliefs about why and how it develops have many different meanings and interpretations among Native/Indigenous people. Physical complaints and psychological concerns are not distinguished, and Native/Indigenous people may express emotional distress in ways that are not consistent with standard diagnostic categories.
  • Native/Indigenous people who meet the criteria for depression, anxiety, or substance abuse disorders are much more likely to seek help from a spiritual and/or traditional healer than from specialty or other medical sources.
  • Due to high levels of poverty, many Native/Indigenous people in America face economic barriers that prevent them from receiving treatment.
  • Lack of awareness about mental health issues and services that are available and a lack of programs and providers that are sensitive to native and indigenous culture can prevent Native/Indigenous people from receiving treatment.


  • Access to mental health services is severely limited by the rural, isolated location of many Native/Indigenous communities. Additionally, access is limited because most clinics and hospitals of the Indian Health Service are located on reservations, yet the majority of Native/Indigenous people in America live outside of tribal areas.
  • Compared to non-Hispanic whites, nearly 3 times as many Native/Indigenous people had no health insurance – 5.9 percent compared to 14.9 percent. Approximately 43 percent of Native/Indigenous people in America rely on the Medicaid or public coverage.

Mental Health Resources for Native and Indigenous Communities

Partnerships and Resources

GLSEN’s Website on Native and Indigenous LGBTQ Youth in U.S. Schools

Two Spirit and LGBTQ Health

"Celebrating Our Magic" Toolkit from NPAIHB

Indian Health Services, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

National Center for American Indian and Alaska Native Mental Health Research