Common Mental Health Disorders Of Indigenous People According To A Therapist

According to a group of therapist, there are approximately 5000 to 6000 distinct indigenous groups living in more than 70 nations all around the globe. Combined, the overall number of this group will reach around 250 million individuals who are more or less 5 percent of the world’s population.

Relatively little research has been made to study their mental health status. It is a bit unsurprising since the rights, needs, and welfare of this group have been historically not concerning to the general public and its leaders. Aside from the economic and political marginalization they experience, they are also targets for ethnic and cultural discriminations, which sometimes negatively affects their mental health.

Common Mental Health Disorders Statistics

Mental health disorders are also taking over in the lives of the indigenous people. With that in mind, listed below are some of the most common mental health disorders and some important statistical values supporting the claim.


According to studies, approximately 33 percent of indigenous people with age over 15 years old experience high to very high levels of psychological distress. This number is twice the levels reported for non-indigenous individuals.

From this data, experts observed that out of this 33 percent, two-thirds of them are reported to have experienced at least one personal offenders per year. These stressors range from issues such as overcrowding, accident, illness, violence, or the death of a loved one. However, the most common stressor they face is becoming homeless or mistreated through racial jokes or discriminating them from accessing services.

“People don’t seek help in the same manner, and help is not available in the same way,” wrote Marianna Pogosyan, Ph.D., an intercultural consultant who specializes in the psychology of cross-cultural transitions. “Moreover, the extent to which symptoms are recognized as pathology vs. an unpleasant but normative characteristic of life might differ.”

There are also reports that women from these indigenous tribes have higher rates of depression from men. It comes from the fact that men have more emotional outlets, such as alcohol, as compared to women who keep their emotions in themselves.


  • According to statistics, indigenous people living in remote communities are ten times more likely to experience dementia than non-indigenous individuals. They are also 26 times more possibilities to develop this mental health disorder at an early age, between 45 to 59 years old, than the rest of the people. The main contributors for this first development revolve around issues such as smoking, head injury, stroke, and the fact that they do not have formal education.
  • “Dementia means problems with thinking and memory are impairing daily function,” Andrew Budson, M.D., professor of neurology at Boston University and lecturer in neurology at Harvard Medical School, explains. “When people have problems with their thinking and memory to the point that they can no longer function independently, they have dementia.”

Alcohol And Drug Use

Surveys show that 75 percent of the residents of indigenous communities feel that alcohol and drug use is a problem in the city. Out of this 75 percent, 33 percent vouched that they experience this specific problem in their own family, and 25 percent said that they have personal intake problems with regards to alcohol and drugs. They also revealed that they consider themselves heavy drinkers who consume at least five drinks in just one seating.

  • The good news with this, on the other hand, is that about one-third of the survey respondents confirmed that there was progress in terms of addressing the amount of alcohol and drug use in their respective communities.


Schizophrenia refers to a mental health disorder which is characterized by an abnormal social behavior approach and failure to pinpoint the reality from the fantasy. Those who suffer from this experience hallucination, lack of emotional depth, confused thinking, delusions, and social withdrawal.


Survey says that schizophrenia is a result of traumatic stress. The stressors related to this include inability to get a job, death of a friend or family member, or severe illness.

Psychiatrist Adrian Preda, M.D. says, “The data indicates that for a majority of patients who meet diagnostic criteria—meaning presenting with a combination of abnormal perceptions (mostly auditory hallucinations), delusions, disorganized thinking or behavior, as well as a lack of interest, motivation, and social isolation—for about six months the course is chronic and the prognosis is fair.”

Risk Factors

There are several risk factors faced by indigenous people, which makes them more vulnerable to mental health disorders. Here are some of them:

  • They experience endless discrimination and racism.
  • They feel widespread grief or loss. It includes the loss over culture, connection, and land brought about by historical invasion.
  • Some indigenous groups also develop mental illnesses due to the impact of stolen children brought about by either the government or foreign invasion.
  • Many indigenous people are economically disadvantaged, and they always have to worry about their financial status, which makes them more vulnerable to mental health disorders.
  • Violence also negatively affect their mental health. Some groups welcome rough physical behavior in their culture, while others experience it through a foreign takeover.
  • Unresolved trauma is also a significant factor in the mental health condition of indigenous people. If undecided, there is a tendency that the injury can affect other people’s lives as well, and a possibility to pass it to the next generations.
  • Physical health problems also negatively affect the feeling of exclusion and inadequacy of this group.

Everyone should take this dramatic increase in the rates of mental health disorder experiences seriously. Topics like this should be researched more to find out the underlying causes of the said increase in numbers. The government should also help out by implementing government programs which will focus on providing treatment and services on mental health.


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