Indigenous Peoples’ and World Mental Health Day


A time of year to celebrate and protect mental health.




Now is the annual time to especially focus on mental health around the world and, most importantly, the Indigenous individuals in the Americas. Occasionally, it is still called Columbus Day, thereby representing the historical struggle between European colonization and the Indigenous individuals encountered.

Moreover, if viewed in a certain light, the current crisis in the Middle East reflects back to the original Indigenous individuals from that area. Going back to the Old Testament (Torah) story of the separation of the stepbrothers Ishmael and Isaac is perhaps psychologically connected to the most emotionally and deadly American family conflicts like the Hatfields and McCoys. As always, family conflicts can be the most recalcitrant to change.

The legacy for Indigenous individuals has generally not been good for mental health. In the United States, they have the worst statistics. Intergenerational transmission of trauma is still playing out, along with continued isolation, discrimination, and inadequate resources for Native Americans.

World mental health is threatened by all the threats to the world’s human vulnerability: nuclear, war, pandemics, cults, and xenophobia. In 1992, World Mental Health Day was initiated by the World Federation for Mental Health to pay more attention to such risks.

How, then, can we not be gloomy about our collective mental health? For one, the stigma has been lessening as younger individuals are more open to help. How we can help has improved, too, with a variety of more targeted psychotherapies that can also be delivered online, along with the promising second coming of psychedelics.

We also have world mental health associations of note, including the World Psychiatric Association (WPA) and the World Association of Social Psychiatry (WASP). And, in New York, there is even an annual festival, the second annual World Mental Health Day Festival in Hudson Yards, put on by Project Healthy Minds.

Perhaps you have ideas for new mental health endeavors, from the individual to the social. If so, let us know.

Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry, and is now in retirement and refirement as a private pro bono community psychiatrist. A prolific writer and speaker, he has done a weekday column titled “Psychiatric Views on the Daily News” and a weekly video, “Psychiatry & Society,” since the COVID-19 pandemic emerged. He was chosen to receive the 2024 Abraham Halpern Humanitarian Award from the American Association for Social Psychiatry. Previously, he received the Administrative Award in 2016 from the American Psychiatric Association, the one-time designation of being a Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Speaker of the Assembly of the APA in 2002, and the Exemplary Psychiatrist Award from the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill in 1991. He is an advocate and activist for mental health issues related to climate instability, physician burnout, and xenophobia. He is now editing the final book in a 4-volume series on religions and psychiatry for Springer: Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, Christianity, and now The Eastern Religions, and Spirituality. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric Times.

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