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Indigenous Heritage Month 2023
Every November we celebrate Native American Alaska Native Heritage Month. It is celebrated as a commemorative month for Native Americans and Alaska Natives in the United States to share their culture, tradition, and ways and concepts of life. While this nationally recognized celebration is observed in the month of November, Native American Heritage is something that we can continue to learn about and celebrate all year round. There are currently 574 federally recognized Native American/Indigenous tribes in the United States. Each tribe is unique to and displays a vast array of cultural practices through artwork, music, cuisine, or language. We can celebrate and uplift Indigenous/Native voices by educating ourselves on land acknowledgement practices, supporting Indigenous businesses, and checking in on Indigenous individuals throughout the entire year.
Statistics around Native American/Indigenous mental health report higher rates of distress, suicide, and mental health disorders compared to other ethnic groups. According to NAMI, 19% of Native adults experience mental illness each year. These struggles are often a result of historical trauma, which is the “cumulative, multigenerational, collective experience of emotional and psychological injury in communities and in descendants” (SAMHSA). When focusing on youth specific data, we know that suicide rates for Native/Indigenous youth are double the rate of white youth.
The statistics surrounding Indigenous people’s mental health make it clear that resources must be made available for this population, but it’s also important to note that many Native/Indigenous tribes have built-in protective factors that promote connectedness and encourage strong mental health. These include familial bonds, strong relationships with nature, and honoring meaningful traditions.
Unfortunately, Native/Indigenous people still face many barriers in accessing mental health care. The existing stigma and lack of awareness around mental health in the Native/Indigenous population creates hesitation and a lack of trust toward mental health professionals.
Access to treatment is a protective factor that can be put in place to improve mental health. If you are a Native/Indigenous person who is struggling with mental health, there is hope and help available to improve your current situation. The resources below, provided by AFSP, are a great place to start. The National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is another great resource. If you need support call or text 988 or chat online at 988lifeline.org. You will be connected with a crisis counselor who can guide you toward help and healing.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has compiled a list of resources for Native and Indigenous Communities.
Sidney Howard, Outreach Coordinator
Sidney Howard is an Outreach Coordinator at The Kim Foundation. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and Sociology from Midland University, where she was an Event Coordinator for four years. Sidney has previous experience in behavioral health, working with youth and adults in direct care settings. Sidney is passionate about raising awareness around mental health and providing support and resources. She joined the foundation in January of 2023 and currently focuses on outreach through presentations, events, and relations.