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The (post)colonial predicament in community mental health services for American Indians: Explorations in alter-Native psy-ence.
American Psychologist  (IF16.358),  Pub Date : 2022-03-10, DOI: 10.1037/amp0000906
Joseph P. Gone

Early in my career, I explored clinical depression and problem drinking among my own American Indian people on the Fort Belknap Indian reservation in Montana in the United States. There I interviewed a middle-aged cultural traditionalist named Traveling-Thunder who explained why many community members struggled with substance abuse and associated distress. In his view, the primary problem was that “we do not fit in with the Whiteman’s system.” As it turned out, this straightforward observation captured an entire explanatory rationale about reservation mental health that reappears everywhere I go in “Indian Country.” Specifically, Traveling-Thunder highlighted history and spirituality in his account of the emergence of community mental health problems, overtly attributing these forms of disabling distress to processes of Euro American colonization. This problem frame overtly recasts “mental disorders” as (post)colonial pathologies, which anchors a broad alternative Indigenous mental health discourse. This framework is parallel to but distinctive from dominant psychiatric discourse. In this article, I describe this alter-Native psy-ence and trace the implications for American Indian community mental health services.