Resources To Support Native & Indigenous Women Struggling With Addiction or Mental Illness
The awe-inspiring beauty of Native American reservations can take you back in time. These sacred grounds hold stories of cultural heritage and community spirit that can only be understood by breathing the air and listening to the distant beat of ceremonial drums.
From centuries-old healing practices to burial mounds that hold those who led with a determined resilience, the lands have a history unmatched in other parts of the world.
From the mountains, forests, deserts, and endless bodies of natural water, one can’t help but feel peace and tranquility on these hollowed grounds. If you are still and listen closely, some believe you can hear the whispers of the native tongue and the excitement of ceremonies and rituals that speak to the essence of Indigenous life.
Storytelling, traditional dances, and artwork cover the walls of homes and are passed down from generation to generation. The native culture in America is one steeped in tradition and preservation.
Yet behind every majestic backdrop lies secrets, pain, and suffering. These injustices are actual, even in these magical lands. Poverty, inadequate healthcare, and social inequities have not left the Indigenous people untouched.
The Indigenous women of America are suffering from abuse, trauma, drug addiction, and mental illness at disparaging rates. While some might look the other way, we understand the importance of equitable services to all. We must turn our attention to these native lands and people and provide the access and support they need to overcome obstacles their ancestors never asked for.
Indigenous Women Addiction Stats and Insights
- Indigenous women face addiction more often than other ethnicities. They are 50% more likely to develop an addiction problem than women of other races.
- Historical trauma, intergenerational trauma, social determinants of health, and systemic factors impact indigenous women. These factors lead to using substances to cope with traumatic events or trauma-related emotions and experiences that have been passed down.
- A 2019 study by the Government of Canada reported that as much as 92% of Indigenous women abuse alcohol consistently.
- Colonization plays a primary role in substance abuse by Indigenous women. The introduction of grain alcohol and heavy drinking practices from Europeans also led to Indigenous women abusing it.
- Human trafficking of Indigenous women introduced them to illicit drugs. The most commonly abused drugs include cocaine, methamphetamine, marijuana, and prescription medications.
- Indigenous women face unique barriers when seeking addiction treatment. The National Library of Medicine cites cultural insensitivity in treatment programs, lack of access to culturally appropriate care, rural locations, and limited resources as significant barriers.
- Cultural identity is essential to Indigenous women. However, mainstream medical practices don’t always recognize the importance of traditional healing methods. Ignoring these make it difficult for Indigenous women to participate in medical treatments that don’t consider their cultural approaches combined with Western medicine.
Symptoms of Addiction
- It’s hard to think about anything besides the substance because of intense cravings.
- You need more and more of the substance to feel the same high.
- You feel unease or worry if you can’t obtain the drug.
- Substance use takes priority over friendships and relationships.
- You abuse substances while driving, working, or going to school.
- You need help balancing work, school, or personal responsibilities.
- You are doing things you wouldn’t usually do, including stealing to get drugs.
- You focus on the substance instead of the activities you once enjoyed.
- You can’t stop using the substance even if you want to.
- You experience withdrawal symptoms when you try to quit.
Indigenous Women Mental Illness Stats and Insights
- Just as Indigenous women often face addiction at a higher rate than other ethnicities, the same is true of developing a mental health disorder. Discrimination, socioeconomic factors, and trauma are the primary causes.
- Indigenous women are more likely, 56%, to be victims of sexual abuse. As a result, they have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) at higher rates. Generational trauma and cultural stigma also account for high rates of PTSD.
- Two-thirds of Indigenous adults reported low or moderate levels of psychological distress. With that, 64% of Indigenous women were found to have mental illnesses, including depression and anxiety.
- Suicidal ideation is a prevalent mental health concern for Indigenous women. For every 35 women out of every 100,000, they either commit or attempt suicide. In comparison, the rate is 5 out of every 100,000 for non-Indigenous women.
- As stated, Indigenous women face barriers to addiction treatment. The same happens when it comes to mental health treatment.
- While the strength and resilience of Indigenous women are remarkable, they still face stigma when it comes to navigating mental health and access to culturally appropriate and inclusive care. These limitations make it challenging to receive the treatment they need in a manner that respects both their illness and their cultural background.
Symptoms of Mental Illness
- Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
- Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
- Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
- Decreased energy or fatigue
- Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems without a clear physical cause that do not ease even with treatment
- Moving or talking more slowly
- Feeling restless or having trouble sitting still
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
- Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
- Appetite or weight changes
- Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
Co-Occurring Substance Use Disorders (SUD)
Substance use disorders (SUD) have a disproportionate impact on Indigenous communities. Cultural factors, systemic inequalities, and self-medication to cope with trauma and stressors contribute to higher rates of substance abuse.
A co-occurring SUD is when a person has a mental health disorder. To cope with the symptoms, they begin to abuse substances. Indigenous women have a high rate of co-occurring SUD and fatal overdoes.
The disorders include depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The mental health disorder and SUD must be treated for a chance at recovery.
The most common mental health disorders that lead to SUD are:
- Anxiety and mood disorders
- Bipolar disorder
- Major depressive disorder
- Conduct disorders
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
Some of the most common substances include the following:
- Prescription drugs
Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Programs and Services
Addiction treatment programs are the best course of action for substance use disorders (SUD) and mental health disorders. Evidence-based therapeutic options resolve underlying issues. Options such as intensive outpatient, partial hospitalization, and medically-assisted detox programs will improve the overall quality of life and well-being.
Evidence-Based Practices for addiction are beneficial because they provide a framework for treatment. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has studied, evaluated, and approved these practices. As a result, these practices have received scientific validation to help individuals recover from addiction.
Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP)
With inpatient treatment, the individual stays at the rehab center for the length of their treatment. Staying at the rehab facility gives them 24/7 care and superPartial hospitalization programs (PHP) are more intensive. Individuals must finish medical detox to prepare for PHP. PHP requires individuals to attend treatment for several hours a day for several days each week. The treatment occurs in a rehab facility and can include individual therapy, group therapy, medication management, and other support services. PHP is designed for individuals who require more intensive treatment than an outpatient program. vision. With many other treatment programs, the individual can live in a sober living community. The sober living house is a substance-free environment so that the residents can lower their risk of relapse.
Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)
Intensive outpatient programs (IOP) are flexible and require 9 hours, usually split three days a week. Most facilities offer day and evening options to fit individual schedules. This makes it easy to incorporate into the week. The duration and frequency of this program depend upon the individual at the direction of their therapist. IOP works best for individuals who need a more extensive treatment plan than traditional outpatient services but not residential care.
Outpatient Treatment Program
Traditional Outpatient provides aftercare and continuous support. Both are critical to maintaining sobriety. Support can include ongoing family and individual therapy or counseling, continued participation in support groups or 12-step programs, and regular check-ins with a therapist.
Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)
Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) combines prescription medications and counseling to help our clients continue their recovery. MAT programs are effective for overcoming addiction and building a recovering lifestyle.
When clients come to us suffering from suicidal ideation and co-occurring substance abuse issues, MAT can help to ease cravings and reduce the risk of relapsing. By using opioid blockers, we reduce the risk of relapsing in our clients even more.
Relapse prevention is a set of techniques our therapists use to prevent our clients from returning to destructive behaviors and thinking. The therapist assists the client with identifying triggers and exchanging them for positive behaviors. The goal for this component of a treatment plan is long-term recovery by preventing addictive behaviors.
Holistic therapy is an alternative treatment service that focuses on the whole person, not just specific addiction-related symptoms. Our therapists consider our clients’ physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being, allowing them to achieve balance and develop coping skills. We use several holistic therapy services, including yoga, meditation, and chiropractic care.
Family therapy helps treat mental health and addiction. It provides understanding, support, and education for family members. It strengthens relationships by addressing the impact of addiction and mental health on family dynamics.
The alum program is unique to our clients’ aftercare treatment plans. Many of our alum find it rewarding to help others overcome addiction as they have. The alums meet with and support those in our treatment facility. They provide guidance using their acquired skills. They participate in group therapy sessions and can share their experience now that they are back to life outside residential treatment.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) help our clients process and overcome traumatic experiences. EMDR is based on the idea that unresolved traumatic memories are stored in the brain because individuals can experience distress and symptoms years after the event.
EMDR involves a structured approach that includes identifying a target memory. Using eye movements, sounds, or taps, your therapist will activate the brain’s natural healing processes. From there, the brain reprocesses the memory with a more adaptive resolution.
Clients are monitored as they withdraw during medically-assisted detoxification (detox). When going through alcohol withdrawal, individuals can experience a range of alarming symptoms.
These include tremors, nausea, vomiting, cold sweats, seizures, heart attack, and stroke. We use medications such as benzos, beta-blockers, and mood stabilizers to reduce the severity of symptoms.
Addiction, Mental Health, and Wellness Resources for Indigenous Women
Clients are monitored as they withdraw during medically-assisted detoxification (detox). When going through alcohol withdrawal, individuals can experience a range of alarming symptoms. These include tremors, nausea, vomiting, cold sweats, seizures, heart attack, and stroke. We use medications such as benzos, beta-blockers, and mood stabilizers to reduce the severity of symptoms.
Organizations have created resources to address the needs of Indigenous women, specifically.
- National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center (NIWRC) – Offers support, advocacy, and resources for Native American and Alaska Native women affected by substance abuse and violence
- Native American Rehabilitation Association (NARA) – Provides culturally sensitive addiction treatment and recovery services for Native American women, and the resources include access to outpatient programs, residential treatment, and counseling
- White Bison – Offers sobriety and recovery resources based on Native American spiritual principles through programs
- StrongHearts Native Helpline – 24/7 helpline dedicated to supporting Native American survivors of domestic violence and related issues, including substance abuse, through culturally appropriate resources. 844-7NATIVE (1-844-762-8483)
- Native American Connections – Provides a range of behavioral health and substance abuse treatment programs for Native American women
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) – SAMHSA provides a national helpline, treatment locator, and a wealth of resources for individuals seeking addiction treatment and support. 800-662-HELP (800-662-4357)
- National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) – NIDA offers educational resources, research updates, and treatment information for substance abuse and addiction.
- Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) – AA is a fellowship of individuals who share their experiences, strength, and hope with each other to recover from alcohol addiction.
- Narcotics Anonymous (NA) – NA is a global community that provides support and recovery for individuals struggling with drug addiction through meetings and support networks.
- Faces & Voices of Recovery – A national advocacy organization focused on promoting recovery from addiction. They provide resources, support, and advocacy opportunities.
Mental Illness Resuorces
- Native American Lifelines – Provides culturally sensitive mental health services, including counseling and therapy, for Indigenous women and their families
- Indian Health Services (IHS) – This federal agency operates healthcare facilities serving Native American communities. They offer mental health services, including counseling and treatment, for Indigenous women.
- National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) – Provides resources, support groups, and education on mental health for individuals and families, including specific resources for Indigenous women
- WeRNative – Offers a range of resources, including mental health articles, videos, and an online community, specifically designed for Native Indigenous women of all ages
- Native American Community Mental Health Centers – Many tribal communities have mental health centers that provide culturally sensitive mental health services. Contact your local tribal government or health department to ask about available resources.
- Native Wellness Institute – Offers training, workshops, and resources focused on mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual wellness that can benefit Indigenous women
- Native American Psychological Association (NAPA) – Provides resources and information on culturally appropriate mental health practices, including a directory of Native psychologists who may specialize in working with Indigenous women
- Tribal Health Departments – Local health departments are valuable resources for Indigenous women’s wellness. They provide information on healthcare services, preventive care, health education, and community programs.
- Indian Health Service (IHS) – IHS is a federal agency responsible for providing healthcare to Native Americans. The clinics treat medical, dental, mental health, and substance abuse. Their website has resources available that cater to Indigenous women.
- National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center (NWRC) – NWRC addresses domestic violence, sexual assault, reproductive health, and mental wellness that Indigenous women face.
- Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) – NWAC provides access to local or regional organizations that cater to tribal communities.
- Traditional Healing Practices – Indigenous communities have traditional healing practices that are important to maintaining cultural heritage. Connecting with local elders and healers can provide guidance and support that modern medicine does not offer. Many Indigenous women use these with contemporary practices or solely as a means of recovery.
- Cultural Centers and Programs – Cultural centers and programs within indigenous communities can offer resources and activities that promote wellness. Indigenous women are taught and can further grow cultural teachings and practices.
- Community Support and Networks – Connecting to community members and local support can be a powerful tool for overall well-being. These networks allow Indigenous women to access local resources while empowering them on their healing journey.
Next Steps for Treatment
Treatment for mental health can improve life quality. Indigenous women should not suffer in silence when closing the gap between proper healthcare and resources is possible. Support is available if a mental health disorder impacts daily life. Take the first step by calling Southeast Addiction Center – Georgia at 888-981-8263 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
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