The ongoing effects of colonialism disproportionately place Indigenous youth at risk for mental health challenges. This meta-analysis examined lifetime and past-year prevalence estimates of mental health challenges among First Nations, Inuit, and Métis youth in Canada.
Five electronic databases were searched from their inceptions until June 17, 2021. Studies were included if they assessed mental health challenges among First Nations, Inuit, and/or Métis youth (≤18 years old). Risk of bias was assessed using the Newcastle−Ottawa Scale.
A total of 28 articles were eligible. Sixteen studies contained data on First Nations, 2 on Inuit, one on Métis, and 10 aggregated Indigenous participants. Among First Nations participants, pooled prevalence estimates for past-year suicidality (8.9%), mood and/or anxiety (<2.9%), attention-deficit/hyperactivity (2.9%), oppositional defiant (8.8%), and conduct (12.8%) disorder diagnoses were identified. Limited studies containing Inuit, Métis, and aggregated Indigenous participants also found high levels of disruptive disorder symptoms. Data were very limited for lifetime prevalence estimates. Studies assessed to have a moderate or high methodological risk of bias (k = 19) or using measures that are not yet culturally validated (k = 25) may contribute to inaccuracies in prevalence estimates.
Existing data suggest that Indigenous youth have a low prevalence of mental health challenges, with the exception of disruptive behaviors. Future studies should use culturally validated tools and partner with Indigenous communities to ensure optimal identification of mental health challenges.