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Issues Ment Health Nurs. 2005 Dec;26(10):1001-24.

Stigma of mental illness among American Indian and Alaska Native nations: historical and contemporary perspectives.

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  • 1North Dakota State University, Fargo, North Dakota 58078, USA.


Among American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) people, the concept of mental illness has different meanings and is interpreted in various ways. This paper describes the realities of mental health care that confront AIAN people. Stigma is associated with mental illness, which can be a barrier for those individuals who are in need of mental health services. Within the context of the AIAN historical and contemporary experiences, the paper details domains that negatively influence the lives of AIAN people. Included are the failure of the U.S. government to fulfill its treaty agreements with AIAN people; the disparities in income and education, and the pervasiveness of poverty; and access to care issues. These domains help to set the stage for health disparities that frequently catapult AIAN people to early morbidity and mortality. Importantly, many of these conditions are preventable. The paper concludes with recommendations for a more diverse workforce that will include AIAN mental health professionals who are available to provide culturally competent care to AIAN people in a variety of settings.

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