American Indian and Alaskan Native adolescents belong to one of the fastest-growing groups of youth in the United States, yet very little research is done on the mental health needs of this community. The struggles faced by indigenous peoples are often framed as “problems of the past,” meaning that very few Americans know anything about the struggles faced by today’s indigenous peoples. While colonization began hundreds of years ago, its effects and practices are still seen today. Policies that promoted the assimilation of European and tribal cultures have resulted in the obliteration of indigenous cultures, replacing traditional indigenous health practices with Western ones.
Indigenous individuals are at an increased risk for physical, social, behavioral, and socioeconomic disparities, resulting in an increased risk for mental health problems. Many health experts and scholars believe that colonization and the disregard for and destruction of indigenous cultures is still at the root of many mental health problems seen in this population today. Unfortunately, many indigenous people are suspicious of Western health practices because those have been colonized too. Research shows that culturally supportive environments and pro-social networks increase resiliency in members of this population, but Western health practitioners often disregard traditional indigenous practices in favor of their own.
At Student Counseling Services, while we recognize there are gaps in our ability to meet every need of the indigenous community, we strive to provide culturally competent care that considers the cultural background of each individual student and offer a welcoming environment to students of indigenous backgrounds. We offer resources such as free individual, couples, and group counseling services, and outreach programs focused on cultural diversity and inclusion. We aim to operate from a place of cultural humility and are continuously seeking ways to grow our cultural understanding and ability to care for all Illinois State students.