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Cultural Connectedness Protects Mental Health

Updated: Sep 18, 2019

Scholars suggest that cultural connectedness may help explain why some American Indian youth manage to thrive in the face of significant adversity stemming from the social legacies of colonization. Cultural connectedness is described as the knowledge of, and engagement with, aspects of Indigenous culture. Snowshoe et al. (2015) developed the Cultural Connectedness Scale (CCS) to organize, explain, and promote a better understanding of the resiliency mechanisms underlying cultural connectedness for Native youth.

Cultural connectedness has been shown to protect against the mental health symptoms and risks associated with historical loss and perceived discrimination by directly counteracting its negative impact on Native youth (Whitbeck, Hoyt, McMorris, Chen, & Stubben, 2001); it has been associated with prosocial behaviors (Whitbeck, Hoyt, Stubben, & LaFromboise, 2001) and connectedness to and engagement in family, school, and community among Native youth (Crooks, Chiodo, Thomas, & Hughes, 2010; Resnick et al., 1997; Sale, Sambrano, Springer, & Turner, 2003). Research has suggested that cultural factors, such as a sense of belonging to one’s culture, strong tribal spiritual orientation, and cultural continuity, can be protective against suicide among American Indian populations (Pharris, Resnick, & Blum, 1997).

Several scholars contend that Native youth often possess cross-cultural protective factors, cultural connectedness may provide a unique means of protection against distinct communal challenges, both as mechanisms of coping (Walters, Simoni, & Evans-Campbell, 2002) and by strengthening universal youth protective factors, such as healthy family, school, and community networks (Bernard, 1992); Increasing access to culturally competent and responsive services, development and implementation of school- and community-level interventions, educating and increasing awareness of suicide, and connecting young people to their culture are all successful approaches reported in the literature.

IINII uses a revolutionary Design Thinking process to help your school community gain an understanding of one’s sense of self, as well as developing an understanding of students’ and parents’ values; having an understanding of one’s values matters because research has shown that it is linked to better well-being, less stress, and increased confidence in one’s ability to succeed.

Understanding students’ values can be developed with culturally sustaining practices that reflect a student’s identity and experience. Particularly helpful is focusing efforts on cultural competence and relevance and providing opportunities for students to practice bridging differences between diverse identities in a safe environment. To learn how you can create a dynamic youth-centered environment that honors the unique values of your students and parents, visit our website at, or contact us at or 1800-507-2502.

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