HomeHealth TopicMental Health

Mental Health Resources for Native Americans

Ana Gascon IveyIndia B. Gomez, PhD
Written by Ana Gascon Ivey | Reviewed by India B. Gomez, PhD
Published on November 22, 2021

Key takeaways:

  • Historical trauma and discrimination may impact Native American mental health.

  • There are many mental health resources that provide culturally appropriate support to Native Americans.

  • There are groups that help people find healthcare providers, housing support, and services for children and youth.

Portrait of an Indigenous couple out in the desert.
grandriver/E+ via Getty Images

As a Native American, you or someone in your nation may be experiencing mental health symptoms. If so, you’re not alone. There are resources and organizations by and for Native Americans that can help. 

This post will cover the mental health conditions you may face, where you can turn for help, and where you can get support.

What mental health symptoms and conditions do Native Americans experience? 

Native Americans experience the same mental health issues as anyone else. There are many factors that can impact your risk of developing a mental health condition. Some of these include: 

  • Working in a high-stress job

  • Having a family history of mental illness or substance use disorder

  • Facing money trouble or not having access to resources like food and shelter

  • Witnessing community violence

  • Experiencing discrimination based on your identity 

  • Living in an area without enough resources

  • Struggling with work or school

Over centuries, Native and Indigenous people have also experienced a series of traumatic events. These include colonization and the loss of culture, land, and identity. Dr. Maria Yellow Horse Brave Heart (Hunkpapa/Oglala Lakota) calls this historical trauma. She describes it as “emotional and psychological wounding over the lifespan and across generations.” 

Historical trauma and discrimination may contribute to mental health issues like: 

  • Alcohol and substance use

  • Suicide and suicide attempts

  • Depression

Barriers to healthcare in Native communities can also make it difficult to get help. Native people may not trust the federal government’s health services because of past injustices. High rates of poverty, unemployment, and lack of health insurance also create barriers.

Despite the specific challenges you may face, there is hope. “We all have the strength, power, and ability to heal within ourselves, and others can help us to do that,” Brave Heart says

What mental health resources are available?

One barrier you may face as you seek mental health help is finding someone who understands your cultural experience. The mental health resources listed below are designed for Native and Indigenous people. Many are also run by trained experts from the community. 

  • Healthy Native Youth: Healthy Native Youth teaches parents how to talk to children about sexuality, gender identity, consent, and boundaries. Parents can also text EMPOWER to 97779 to receive weekly text messages from Healthy Native Youth that offer health tips.

  • Mental Health Technology Transfer Center Network (MHTTC): This organization has links to mental health centers across the country, including the National American Indian and Alaska Native MHTTC.

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has a webpage for Native Americans and Alaska Natives. You’ll find the lifeline’s phone number (1-800-273-8255) and links to more resources. 

  • Native Hope: Native Hope helps Native communities heal through storytelling, problem solving, relationship building, and community partnerships.

  • One Sky Center: One Sky Center has an online directory of consultants who help Native people with mental health and substance use. The directory includes elders and certified therapists. One Sky Center also publishes a list of programs that offer mental health support.

  • SAMHSA Circle of Care: The Circles of Care program helps children with mental health challenges and their families.

  • StrongHearts Native Helpline: StrongHearts Native Helpline (1-844-762-8483) is a free service that supports people who have experienced domestic abuse and sexual violence. The helpline is available 24/7, offering safety planning, crisis intervention, provider and legal advocacy referrals, along with general jurisdiction information.

  • WeRNative: WeRNative is a health resource for Native teens and young adults. It includes an interactive website and a text messaging service (text NATIVE to 24587). It also has an “Ask Auntie” or “Ask Uncle” question and answer page. Here, young people can talk about issues such as identity, sexuality, and suicidal thoughts.

What other community resources are available to Native Americans?

Organizations that help you find housing or healthcare services may offer the extra support you need. These resources may ease stress and contribute to your mental well-being.

The bottom line

Native Americans and Indigenous people can face many mental health challenges. If you’re dealing with a mental health issue, there are resources available to you. Many of the organizations listed in this post are run by and for Native communities. You don’t have to face whatever you’re going through alone. There are people and organizations ready to help you take steps toward a healthier, happier life.

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, you’re not alone, and help is available. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or text HOME to 741-741 to reach the Crisis Text Line

References

Association of American Indian Physicians. (n.d.). Home.

Brave Heart, M. Y. H. (n.d.). The return to the sacred path: Reflections on the development of historical trauma healing.

View All References (25)

Brave Heart, M. Y. H., et al. (2014). Historical trauma informed clinical intervention research and practice.

Center for Native American Youth. (n.d.). About.

Crisis Text Line. (n.d.). Home.

Healthy Native Youth. (n.d.). Talking is power: Tools for parents.

Indian Health Service. (n.d.). Find health care.

Indian Health Service. (n.d.). Home.

Mental Health Technology Transfer Center Network. (n.d.). Find your center.

Mental Health Technology Transfer Center Network. (n.d.). National American Indian and Alaska Native MHTTC navigation.

National Alliance on Mental Illness. (n.d.). Indigenous.

National American Indian Housing Council. (2017). Regional Indian housing associations.

National Indian Child Welfare Association. (n.d.). Home.

National Indian Council on Aging, Inc. (n.d.). Home.

National Indian Health Board. (n.d.). National resources.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. (n.d.). Home.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. (n.d.). Native Americans and Alaskan Natives.

Native Hope. (n.d.). About us.

Native Hope. (n.d.). Understanding historical trauma and Native Americans.

One Sky Center. (n.d.). Directory.

One Sky Center. (n.d.). Programs.

One Sky Center. (n.d.). Resources.

StrongHearts Native Helpline. (n.d.). Home.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2021). Circles of care.

WeRNative. (n.d.). Ask your relatives.

WeRNative. (n.d.). Home.

Youth.gov. (n.d.). Risk and protective factors for youth.

GoodRx Health has strict sourcing policies and relies on primary sources such as medical organizations, governmental agencies, academic institutions, and peer-reviewed scientific journals. Learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate, thorough, and unbiased by reading our editorial guidelines.

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