Today is World Mental Health Day and Indigenous Peoples’ Day


Happy World Mental Health Day and Indigenous Peoples’ Day!

world mental health

Віталій Баріда/AdobeStock


- Dedicated to Carl Hammerschlag, MD, who passed away on January 21, 2022

It seems psychiatrically appropriate that we not only have the global World Mental Health Day today, which we previewed on Friday, but more specially, Indigenous Peoples’ Day, for Indigenous individuals represent unrealized mental health needs for them and for the rest of us.

Last year was the first time Indigenous Peoples’ Day was recognized by President Biden. We recognized its importance in our 10/11/21 column “The Potluck of Columbus and Indigenous Peoples’ Day,” which honored Native American cultures and histories.

No wonder that it has come to replace Columbus Day in the United States as we reckon with the traumatic human costs of the European conquering and settlement of our country as well as others. Not only were Indigenous cultures compromised, but also their mental health. For instance, Indigenous children were taken away in Australia, the United States, and Canada, resulting in deaths, trauma, and increased vulnerability to substance abuse.

Epidemiological surveys indicate that Native Americans consistently have had what seems to be the worst mental health of any ethnic group. The common practice of recognizing that an event is taking place on former Indigenous land does nothing for reparative or legal justice.

According to an August report of the United States Center for Health Statistics, though there is concern that our overall life expectancy has suddenly decreased, from 76 to 75 years over 2020-2021, the decline is twice that in the Indigenous. Worse, it is down to 65 years in them, which is 18 years less than the life expectancy in Asian Americans.1 Interestingly enough, there seems to be a genetic evolutionary link between East Asians and their migration, providing more credence to the role of history in this major life expectancy disparity.

And yet, what is left of historic Indigenous sustainability principles has great promise to reverse some of the damage European settlers and their descendants have done to the climate and environment. Moreover, the sweat lodge ceremonies, and especially the incorporation of psychedelics like peyote, have great therapeutic potential to supplement the significant limitations of our currently available medications as our collective mental health deteriorates. Ironically, the financial success of Indigenous gambling casinos not infrequently causes gambling addiction in non-Native gamblers.

So, instead of different cultures taking advantage of each other, for the future mental health of all, joining and collaborating to improve our external and internal environments should be one of the goals of World Mental Health Day and its timely connection to Indigenous people.

Take and give more mental health!

Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who has specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry. A prolific writer and speaker, he received the one-time designation of Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Assembly of the American Psychiatric Association in 2002. He is an advocate for mental health issues related to climate instability, burnout, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism for a better world. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric Times™.


1. Arias E, Tejada-Vera B, Kochanek KD, Ahmad FB. Provisional life expectancy estimates for 2021. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. August 2022. Accessed October 10, 2022.

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