Social support is one of the most important factors for wellness. According to a meta-analysis conducted on over one hundred similar studies, there is a positive association between social support and wellbeing itself - including mental health. Recognizing that social support is necessary for mental health involves understanding health at a much broader, encompassing level. Mental health isn't just your body, mind, or any of the ailments that can affect your body and mind. Instead, mental health refers to our sense of self, belonging, and purpose. In other words, mental health is a product of biology and society. Social support gives us a sense of belonging and the resources to address our problems.
Since systems of oppression negatively impact our communal bonds, practicing social support can be our path to greater well-being. Our ancestors knew this. In many Tribal communities, every individual had a place and a role that fit every community member into the overall mosaic. These roles differed depending on the Tribe and Nation, but belonging was native to Indigenous ways of being. Our ancestors practiced social support from the moment of birth to the end of life, from the cradle to the grave, caring for one another in concrete and material ways.
It is no coincidence that over 90% of Native American youth consider mental health an extremely important concern in Indigenous communities. Colonization systematically destroyed the organic and natural lines of social support that upheld Native belonging. Instead of joining families, relatives were abducted to boarding schools or forced to march across deserts and forests away from their ancestral lands. Many descendants, cut off from their languages and relatives, are now orphaned in the foster care system.
The key to Tribal sovereignty is the connection with one another. By restoring our Indigenous support networks that are foundational to our well-being, we can manifest greater mental well-being and address the mental crisis in our communities. We must create more dynamic support systems. Community development, mutual aid, and support groups are all means to the end of support. Thus, we aim to create programming and Indigenous messaging with that in mind