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Can J Psychiatry. 2000 Sep;45(7):617-26.

Mental health services for American Indians and Alaska Natives: need, use, and barriers to effective care.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of Colorado, Denver 80220, USA.


This special review summarizes and illustrates the state of our knowledge regarding the mental health needs of American Indians and Alaska Natives. These needs are considerable and pervasive. The discussion begins by reflecting on the limits of psychiatric nomenclature and conceptual frameworks for revealing Native constructions of mental health and mental illness. The experience and manifestation of psychopathology can be both different and the same across cultures, hinging upon the extent to which such basic assumptions as the relationship of mind to body--and spirit in the case of Native people--or the primacy of the individual or social collective are shared. Having set the stage, this paper moves to recent empirical evidence regarding the mental health needs of American Indians and Alaska Natives: we review that evidence and consider it within the broader context of available services. The report closes with a brief overview of the most pressing issues and forces for change afoot in Indian country in the US. Most have to do with the structure and financing of care as tribes and other Native community-based organizations seek to balance self-determination and resource management to arrive at effective, fiscally responsible, culturally informed prevention, treatment, and aftercare options for their members. These changes may herald similar trends among First Nations people to the immediate north.

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