Making Indigenous Care More Accessible

Date Posted

July 10, 2023


Dawna Roberts

Indigenous Care Blog_Native American Woman Smiling

July is National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. In tribute to this inspiring initiative, we are pleased to share our new video about indigenous care and mental wellness for all families.

What is National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month?

National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month is devoted to bringing awareness about the special issues involved for racial and ethnic minority groups in addressing mental health conditions and accessing mental health care.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Minority Health (OMH) hosts the initiative. During the month, the HHS provides tools and resources to address the stigma of mental health issues.

The Importance of Culture in Mental Health: An Indigenous Provider’s Perspective

Families for Depression Awareness sat down with Brianna Jacobs, LCMHC, to hear about her experience as a Native American working with indigenous patients. She shared her perspective and experience about how important it is to incorporate cultural practices and beliefs into mental health care for Indigenous people.

While indigenous people experience disproportionately high rates of mental health issues (including suicide, post-traumatic stress disorder, and substance use disorders) compared to the general U.S. population, there are a number of barriers to indigenous mental health care. Impoverished tribes have historically had no access to mental health resources. Additionally, there is a lack of awareness that these services exist to help families with mental wellness.

Challenges Finding Indigenous Care

Indigenous Care Blog_ Indigenous Therapist Leading Group TherapyBrianna’s family has held negative beliefs about the medical system, fueled largely by their experience with Eugenics (misuse of medicine to control reproduction to change a population’s makeup; white people implemented this via non-voluntary sterilization in indigenous communities and other minority populations). Understandably, the impact of historical trauma leaves many indigenous people feeling distrustful of the medical industry. These beliefs and feelings have been passed down from generation to generation.

Many of her clients come from religious backgrounds, where the idea is to “pray it away.” There is essentially no support for people who are struggling. They are expected to just “get over it.”

Another challenge facing indigenous people is the lack of providers that share their identity. Being limited to receiving care from non-indigenous providers essentially cuts them off from the culturally sensitive services they need. There are also very few indigenous providers, and it is tough for them to gain the trust of their patients.

Some mental wellness challenges indigenous people face are missing community, missing home, and feeling “less than” if they are not located within their tribe. Many are the only native person in their school, church, or community, leaving them feeling isolated and depressed. Their identity is often questioned, causing them more pain and suffering. However, Brianna says it’s never too late to connect with other Indigenous folk. The internet and social media have made connecting easier than ever.

Bridging the Gap in Indigenous Care

Brianna strives to be the bridge between indigenous people and mental well-being, rebuilding trust and offering them hope and services that they previously had no access to. She also intends to redefine what therapy is. It doesn’t need to be a sterile, white walls, scary environment. Therapy can fit easily within their culture and be as comfortable as talking with a friend or family member.

Dawna M. Roberts has spent most of her career in technology. She has written thousands of blog posts, marketing materials, and website pages for her clients. She owned a website development agency for 15 years, honing her SEO and digital marketing skills. Writing and storytelling are her passions! She enjoys crafting well-written, compelling content that keeps readers coming back for more. Her greatest joy is writing that helps other people.