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Humanities Nonfiction Social Sciences

Indian Boarding School Experience, Substance Use, and Mental Health among Urban Two-Spirit American Indian/Alaska Natives

By Teresa Evans-Campbell, Ph.D., Karina L. Walters, Ph.D., Cynthia R. Pearson, Ph.D., and Christopher D. Campbell, Ph.D., 2012

Abstract Background: Systematic efforts of assimilation removed many Native children from their tribal communities and placed in non-Indian-run residential schools. Objectives: To explore substance use and mental health concerns among a community-based sample of 447 urban two-spirit American Indian/Alaska Native adults who had attended boarding school as children and/or who were raised by someone who attended boarding school. Method: Eighty-two respondents who had attended Indian boarding school as children were compared to respondents with no history of boarding school with respect to mental health and substance use. Results: Former boarding school attendees reported higher rates of current illicit drug use and living with alcohol use disorder, and were significantly more likely to have attempted suicide and experienced suicidal thoughts in their lifetime compared to non-attendees. About 39% of the sample had been raised by someone who attended boarding school. People raised by boarding school attendees were significantly more likely to have a general anxiety disorder, experience posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms, and have suicidal thoughts in their lifetime compared to others.

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