Researchers have long pointed to the importance of incorporating cultural practices into behavioral health care for Native Americans, but there is an ongoing struggle to ensure those services are accessible and affordable.
In past years, federal and state legislation aimed at increasing insurance coverage of mental health treatment has expanded the availability of services for many. But access to culturally responsive care and traditional healing remains limited.
In the larger landscape of mental and behavioral health care, Indigenous communities face significant disparities.
Native Americans report experiencing serious psychological distress 2.5 times more than the general population, federal data show. And although overall suicide rates are similar to those of white people, there are key differences among certain age groups — with suicides among Native Americans ages 15 to 19 more than double that of white youth.
Indigenous people also are more likely to suffer from substance use disorders. A major factor in all of this is multigenerational trauma stemming from a long legacy of colonization, genocide and oppression, as well as forced relocation from traditional lands, sterilization and assimilation.
“We need to recognize that we’re not just talking about history. We are talking about an ongoing legacy and ongoing problems,” said Hilary Weaver, a professor emeritus at the University at Buffalo who studies Indigenous identity and well-being.
Weaver, who’s a social worker and a member of the Lakota tribe, said traditional healers play a significant role in mending these lasting wounds.
“Those traditional ways have been there long before somebody came in with a psychology degree or a social work degree or a nursing degree,” she said. “And there’s a lot of value in those tribal traditions.”
Read more at SourceNM.com.