National Indigenous Peoples Day: Culture & Addiction

David R Penny
Together We Can
Published in
2 min readJun 20, 2022


This National Indigenous Peoples Day, we want to highlight the role of culture in addiction treatment. What comes to mind when you think about culture?

For a lot of us, we immediately think of what’s right in front of us: unique languages, clothing, and beliefs. But a society’s culture also impacts a person’s beliefs, norms and values. It impacts how you view certain ideas or behaviours. And in the cases of addiction and mental health, it can impact whether or not you seek help, what type of help you seek and what support you have around you.

Photo by Stéfano Girardelli on Unsplash

It’s important that we understand the role culture plays in both addiction and mental health so we can support our loved ones and encourage treatment when it’s needed most.

Here are four ways culture can impact mental health and addiction:

  1. Cultural stigma. Every culture has a different way of looking at mental health. For many, there is growing stigma around addiction, mental health, and sometimes, mental health challenges are considered a weakness and something to hide. This can make it harder for those struggling to talk openly and ask for help.
  2. Understanding symptoms. Culture can influence how people describe and feel about their symptoms. It can affect whether someone chooses to recognize and talk about only physical symptoms, only emotional symptoms or both.
  3. Community Support. Cultural factors can determine how much support someone gets from their family and community when it comes to mental health. Because of existing stigma, people are sometimes left to find mental health treatment and support alone.
  4. Resources. When looking for addiction treatment, you want to talk to someone who understands your specific experiences and concerns. It can sometimes be difficult or time-consuming to find resources and treatment options that take into account specific cultural factors and needs.
Working with Indigeneous Communities photo by Nature United Canada

These are only a few ways culture can impact the perception of and treatment for addiction and recovery. Every person is different and faces a unique journey to recovery. At All My Relations, culture is at the forefront of each person’s journey.

All My Relations Indigenous Healing Centre Logo

To learn more, please visit or call 1–888–940–9854



David R Penny
Together We Can

David is a recovering addict & advocate for Addiction Recovery. He works at Vancouver’s Together We Can, a nonprofit addiction treatment center with 300 clients