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Indian Health Service The Federal Health Program for American Indians and Alaska Natives

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Mental Health


Available evidence suggests that American Indian/Alaska Natives (AI/AN) suffer from mental health conditions at a higher rate than the US general population.  One manifestation of this is that the rate of suicide is 1.5 times higher in AI/ANs than in the general US population, with the problem being especially acute in AI/AN males ages 15 to 24.  Contributors to this increased prevalence of mental health conditions include poverty, drug and alcohol problems and psychological trauma, including historical trauma.  Additionally, mental health conditions increase the risk of other chronic health conditions and complicate their management.

On the other hand, many aspects of AI/AN culture and values, such as placing a high value on raising healthy children, respect for elders and positive spirituality are factors which can be protective against mental health conditions and their negative manifestations.  Most tribal and urban Indian health programs in California provide out-patient mental health treatment through their behavioral health departments.  They endeavor to provide best practice therapies in a culturally-sensitive manner. 

The goal of the IHS/CAO Behavioral Health staff is to partner with tribal health programs and communities to offer the high quality, mental health prevention and treatment to Indian people.