Why Colleges Should Provide Free Mental Health Services to Native and Indigenous Students

Free mental health services for Indigenous students can offer countless benefits. Learn why colleges should provide this resource to students at no cost.
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  • Indigenous students' mental health is impacted by generations of historical trauma.
  • The University of Hawai'i at Mānoa offers free mental health services to Native students.
  • Mental health support is an essential resource for college students.

College students' mental health needs have increased since the onset of COVID-19. Indigenous students, like all other college students, face mental health challenges that can impede learning and overall well-being.

Historical trauma, intergenerational trauma, and discrimination are among the issues that uniquely impact the mental health of Indigenous students nationwide. Some colleges now offer Indigenous students free — and culturally relevant — mental health support.

The University of Hawai'i at Mānoa offers Native Hawaiian students free mental health services as a way to support their student population. These offerings are designed to better serve the unique needs of Indigenous students.

Colleges across the country have the opportunity to improve their mental health support systems to include services that treat the unique needs of Indigenous students — and at no cost.

Colleges taking action to support the needs of Indigenous students provide an opportunity for students to receive care from a culturally connected lens. Will other colleges follow the few leaders providing free mental health services for Indigenous students?

Justifying Free Mental Health Services

Historical and intergenerational trauma affects the mental health of Indigenous populations.

Historical traumas include forced assimilation into dominant cultures and the removal of Indigenous people from home lands. These intergenerational traumas continue today and can lead to anxiety, substance use disorders, depression, and other mental health conditions.

For Native and Indigenous students, colleges can provide support for communities that have been historically traumatized. Nationwide efforts to give back to Native people include landback initiatives, donations to Native-led organizations and education funds, and teaching more accurate histories concerning Indigenous populations.

No-cost mental health services should be included in the list of offerings for Native and Indigenous students as they seek to continue their education.

College tuition and fees often include access to campus physical health services. Few include access to mental health services. The University of Hawai'i at Manoa now ensures that Native Hawaiian students have access to mental health services free of charge.

The free services offered through the University of Hawai'i's programming include individual therapy, group counseling, and access to a newly designed mental health app. All aspects of the free programming were developed to meet the needs of Native Hawaiian students attending the institution.

As college students navigate college and campus life, mental health support is critical. Free resources give students the opportunity to address mental health issues without worry of financial ability.

College students spending time away from home, many for the first time, can experience isolation and other challenges in a new and changing environment. Free mental health services negate the need to prioritize food, books, and other primary needs over caring for your mental well-being. Students no longer have to choose.

Free Mental Health Services for All Students

Free mental health support is a decisive way to provide access to an essential resource as students expand their education. As students prepare to give back to their communities and the nation at-large, it seems only fair that colleges provide simple and free ways to care for their mental health.

Mental health practitioners of ethnic minorities, LGBTQ+ therapists, and female clinical practitioners serving students of similar backgrounds offer valuable mental health support for underserved populations.

As noted by the Brookings Institution, free mental health services offer many benefits. Universal access to therapy can support the reduction of stress levels and can help to normalize mental healthcare.

Stigmas associated with therapy and other forms of mental healthcare can be a barrier that students must overcome in order to seek support or treatment. Providing free mental health services moves colleges, and society, toward a stronger understanding that supporting our mental health needs is critical — for everyone.