Psychological distress among two American Indian tribes
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American Indians suffer disproportionately from mental disorders such as depression and substance abuse. American Indians have lower socioeconomic status than white Americans making them more vulnerable to mental health stressors and disorders, such as depression. Unfortunately, the causal processes and mechanisms producing negative psychological outcomes remain unclear. Despite the disadvantages faced by many American Indians, the Native American community offers cultural norms and values that facilitate treatment of and recovery from mental stressors. The Native American community offers its members an extended social support network as well as healing ceremonies, which could mitigate the effects of depression. In my dissertation, I compare the level of psychological distress between two tribal populations from a study from the Centers for American Indian and Alaska Native Health (CAIANH) at the University of Colorado at Denver. I use logistic regression to examine the relationship between the psychological distress score and tribal identity. The logistic regression analysis also explores the relationship between self-rated health and socioeconomic attainment. Finally, I compare the outcomes between the Northern Plains tribe and the Southwest tribe. The results suggest that individuals with a strong sense of cultural spirituality have lower psychological distress than individuals who do not have strong cultural spirituality. Also, individuals of the Southwest tribe who spent part of their lives off the reservation or near the reservation experience lower psychological distress compared to those who spent their entire lives on the reservation; in contrast, individuals of the Northern Plains tribe are disadvantaged in terms of mental health if they spent part of their lives off or near the reservations than those who stay on the reservation their whole lives. Members of either the Northern Plains tribe or Southwest tribe who feel socially isolated are very likely to experience severe psychological distress or rate their health poorly. The findings of the study indicate that resiliency factors among the tribes such as cultural-spirituality, reservation community and social support are protective, but the findings also encourage further understanding of mechanisms and utilization of the resources available.