Terese Mailhot: When 'self-help' isn't enough to help Native women

Terese Marie Mailhot

Can historical trauma be addressed through Western concepts of treatment: Writer Terese Marie Mailhot (Seabird Island Band) shares her experience:
Women say, “You have to love yourself before anyone can love you at all,” and that seemed like solid advice, until I wondered what advice like that means to a person who is from a collective culture? A person like me.

The self, as we know it, is a western construct—a white invention. Self-help, self-love, and ascribing value to the self, couldn’t be more white, because it all amps up to the idea that people have quantifiable values, and that value is directly related to meaning. ‘What are you worth?’ ‘Don’t settle.’ ‘I’m worth it.’ These sayings pervade commercials for products aimed at women, women’s magazines, and women’s circles (not mine).

This talk posed major problems when I needed support for mental health issues. I was depressed, and I knew some component of my sorrow was based in my culture, my identity and my community. I felt anchored to historical trauma, and dysfunction, and my history. I don’t think any white doctor understood me when I said that I was partially resigned to mourning, because I mourn for my ancestors, even when I celebrate them. It was, and is, bittersweet. I couldn’t think of one event in my life that I did not attach to a broader story that included my people.

Read More on the Story:
Terese Mailhot: Self-Help Isn’t Enough for Native Women (Indian Country Media Network 4/1)