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More studies are needed to learn how many American Indians and Alaska Natives have mental health problems. But in surveys, American Indians and Alaska Natives have high reported rates of feeling anxious or depressed. We also know that suicide rates and substance abuse rates are especially high in this population. Their suicide rate is 1.5 times greater than the national rate, with young people most at risk. American Indians and Alaska Natives also are over-represented among groups at high risk of mental health problems. Visit the mental health section of womenshealth.gov to learn the symptoms of depression and other mental illnesses and how to get help.
Mental health problems and suicide
Money problems, health problems, and the loss of loved ones are all sources of stress, worry, and sadness. During stressful times, feeling sad, worried, or anxious for a little while is normal. But it's not normal to feel this way a lot of the time. Ongoing feelings of sadness and numbness can be signs of depression. Constant worrying that won't go away can be a sign of an anxiety disorder. These feelings are not just "in your head" or a sign of weakness. Mental health problems, such as anxiety and mood disorders, are real illnesses, just like diabetes or heart disease. They can cause changes in your brain and body chemistry.
Treatment can help people with mental health problems to feel better. But many American Indians and Alaska Natives do not get treatment or drop out of treatment. Keep in mind that getting help is important. Unlike most disabling physical illnesses, mental illness often begins early in life. The sooner a mental health problem is discovered, the better the chance for a full recovery.
Remember: Mental illnesses are real, and treatment can help. If emotional problems are interfering with work, school, relationships, or home life, see a doctor.
Explore other publications and websites
American Indian Health — This website is an information portal to information about the health of native peoples of the United States. The topics include cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and environmental health.
Mental Health Services Locator — This website will help you locate mental health treatment facilities and support services in your state.
Suicide: Facts at a Glance — This publication provides statistics on suicide in the United States among the elderly and the young. It also provides information on which gender and age groups are vulnerable to suicide in the United States.
Connect with other organizations
American Indian/Alaska Native National Resource Center for Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services
National Alliance on Mental Illness
National Center for American Indian and Alaska Native Mental Health Research
Office of Minority Health, HHS
Resource Center to Promote Acceptance,
Dignity and Social Inclusion Associated with
Mental Health (ADS Center), SAMHSA, HHS
Content last updated May 18, 2010.
Resources last updated May 18, 2010.
A federal government website managed by the Office on Women's Health in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
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