Poverty and Mental Health in the American Indian Community

Sealey, Larkin

More than twenty-five percent of the US American Indian* population lives at or below the poverty line; unemployment is nearly ten percent higher than that of the general population (U.S. Census, 2006). On or near reservations, the numbers are much higher. American Indian youth commit suicide at a rate three times that of the general population, (Indian Health Services [IHS], 2001) while American Indians as a group have a higher mortality rate due to alcoholism than any other group in the US (Gray & Nye, 2001). The following will examine both the mental health and socioeconomic condition of this community in order to understand the ways in which the experience of poverty and the high rates of poor mental health might relate. There are a number of challenges facing the American Indian community; this paper will explore poverty as only one of the potential factors adding to the mental distress exhibited in the population. Poverty is defined from both an absolute and social exclusion perspective. The suggested influences on mental health include economic stress, sociohistorical trauma, and isolation from institutional resource.


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Columbia Social Work Review

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August 18, 2022