Open Letter to Native Youth: Indigenous Mental Health

Dear Native Youth,

Is there such a thing as Indigenous mental health? I hold that we do not yet fully know what such a construct will look like. What would the restoration of Indigenous mental health look like when returned to an uncolonized healthy state?  Indigenous people are a part of the modern world and Indigenous psychologies are equally complex and important. 

How then do we obtain our Indigenous mental health in a world with multiple anti-Indigenous and oppressive messages and behaviors? How do we define ourselves when we are contrary to the actions of Mainstream society?  We must incorporate our collective need to stay connected to our being, our center, our culture. Indigenous mental health is intertwined with culture, family, spiritual practices and land. To achieve mental health, we must be aware of ourselves in the bigger medicine wheel.   

The rates of mental health needs are well documented in Indian Country.  We are not the statistics, we are resilient, we are connected, and we believe what  we do today we do for the next seven generations, just as our ancestors did for us.  So to honor our ancestors and our little ones to come, we engage in mental wellness; cultural practices, connection to family, and honoring Mother Earth.  These are our origins, these are our mental health tools.  This combined with mainstream mental health supports allows us to maintain overall wellness. Use what makes you centered, and recognize your resilience…we are the medicine and through the medicine comes the power, the resilience, the blessing!

Billie Jo Kipp, Ph.D.
Blackfeet Psychologist, CNAY