The concept of suicide is outright alarming. Whether it’s your friend, a family member, or a complete stranger, suicide hits hard for everyone.
Hearing about the high numbers of suicides among the Native American teens and kids absolutely terrifies me. Having dealt with a family member committing suicide, I am fully aware of the heartache, wonder, and surprise of someone who you are close with taking their life. My cousin, Wesley, was twelve when he threw himself down the stairs. Wesley had autism and depression- one of the worst, yet most common combinations. He was only twelve. As a society, we usually associate suicide with teens, but he was twelve.
According to Indian Health, suicide is the “second-leading cause of death behind unintentional injuries among American Indian children and young adults, and is on the rise”. Native Americans between the ages of 10-24 committed suicide at over twice the rate of whites in the same age range.
Before this class, before I read all of the assigned readings, before all of our class discussions, and before researching to write these blog posts, I would have never thought that the Native Americans are in such a suicide crisis. Depression is so common amongst Native Americans, it almost seems normal. Normal? Depression and suicidal thoughts are not supposed to be normal. Having a personal story, I felt the need to expose this suicide crisis that’s taking place as we speak.
At Fort Peck reservation, “five children killed themselves during the 2009-2010 school year at Poplar Middle School”- a school with only 160 students. Besides those five, 20 other students attempted to kill themselves.
According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, “suicide is not a single problem; rather it is a single response to multiple problems”. Some of the issues that seem to influence a Native American’s decision to commit suicide are: “poverty, lack of economic opportunity, limited educational alternatives, community breakdown, familial disruption, and stigma”.
So what is being done?
Organizations like the Native American Suicide Prevention Organization are fighting the suicides with education. From exposing the warning signs of potential suicides to helpful strategies for intervening and possibly preventing suicides, organizations like these are trying to improve the mental health of depressed Native Americans.