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Culturally Responsive Mental Health Interventions

One research team argues that culturally responsive principles has crossed-over into successful prevention models that connected cultural identity, and self-esteem by braiding traditional culture, parenting/social skill-building, and strengthening family relationships into the intervention (Goodkind et al., 2012). The authors learned that American Indian adolescents benefited from participated in culturally-based mental health interventions that incorporates the development of problem-solving skills, positive intellectual reprogramming, and seeks social supports (Goodkind et al., 2012). The outcomes support the conclusions represented in a study that identified support-seeking coping strategies are related to decreased depression and anxiety symptoms among U.S. adolescents (Wright et al., 2010). Other studies acknowledge the importance of the inherent strengths of tribal communities for Native youth and suggests that future interventions integrate tribal culture and the healing traditions of ancient times (Pavkov et al., 2010).

Hodge, Limb, & Cross (2009) linked colonization to mental health within Indigenous communities and suggested abandoning Western mental health remedies in exchange for healing processes that rely on Indigenous knowledge foundations. Some studies contend that traditional cultural practices that use cultural values to heal intergenerational trauma may help American Indian students reduce suicidal thoughts (Hill 2009; Yurkovich, Hopkins, & Rieke, 2012), and suicidal ideation may be reduced by participating in spiritual activities (Garroutte et al., 2003). The influence of cultural factors, such as sense of belonging to one’s culture, strong tribal spiritual orientation, and cultural continuity, can be protective factors against suicide among American Indian youth (Pharris, Resnick, & Blum, 1997).

Wexler and colleagues (2016) claim that American Indians suffer from lack of culturally appropriate mental-health interventions, and argue for the development of partnerships between scholars and Native communities that permit Indigenous peoples opportunities to draw their own conclusions about what constitutes important societal issues, as well as permitting them to craft remedies that reveal community preferences. Increasing access to culturally responsive interventions, development and implementation of school- and community-level interventions, educating and increasing awareness of suicide, and connecting young people to their culture are all identified in literature (Goldston et al., 2008; Pharris, Resnick, & Blum, 1997; US Department of Health and Human Services, 2010).

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. IINII has extensive experience in building and using an Indigenous research paradigm.

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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