The U.S. suicide rate is up 33 percent since 1999, but for American Indian and Alaska Native women and men, the increase is even greater: 139 percent and 71 percent, respectively, according to an analysis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics.
Native communities experience higher rates of suicide compared to all other racial and ethnic groups in the U.S., with suicide being the eighth leading cause of death for American Indians and Alaska Natives across all ages. For Native youth ages 10 to 24, suicide is the second leading cause of death; and the Native youth suicide rate is 2.5 times higher than the overall national average, making these rates the highest across all ethnic and racial groups.
American Indian and Alaska Native women experience higher levels of violence than other U.S. women. Nearly 84 percent experience violence in their lifetime, according to a 2016 report from the National Institute of Justice. Research shows more than a third of women who have been raped have contemplated suicide, and 13 percent have attempted, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. American Indian and Alaska Natives also experience PTSD more than twice as often as the general population, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
Historical disenfranchisement through genocide and institutional racism has resulted in American Indians and Alaska Natives experiencing poorer health and socioeconomic outcomes. These social determinants of health intersect to create a situation that is detrimental to the physical and mental health of Indian communities. Cultural disconnection, alienation and pressure to assimilate all contribute to higher rates of suicide among American Indians and Alaska Natives.
In partnership with the National Council of Urban Indian Health, the Action Alliance’s American Indian/Alaska Native Task Force put forward a resolution, passed by the National Congress of American Indians in 2015, creating the annual National American Indian and Alaska Native Hope for Life Day. The purpose of the resolution was to request a U.S. presidential proclamation that a National AI/AN Hope for Life Day would be held each year on September 10, which is during Suicide Prevention Week.
Although a presidential proclamation still has not been achieved, this resolution advances the strategy of engaging Indian communities in healing through National American Indian and Alaska Native Hope for Life Day. The goal of the observance is to highlight the disparities in suicide between Indian people and other groups in order to empower change, create hope and engage Native youth, tribal leaders and Indian communities.
People often don’t get the mental health services they need because they don’t know where to start. Talk to your primary care doctor or another health professional about mental health problems. Ask them to connect you with the right mental health services.
If you don’t have a health professional who can assist you, you can contact SAMHSA Treatment Referral Helpline at 1-877-SAMHSA7 (1-877-726-4727). You can get general information on mental health, locate treatment services in your area and speak to a live person Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST. If the situation is potentially life-threatening, get immediate emergency assistance by calling 911, available 24 hours a day.
If you or someone you know is suicidal or in emotional distress, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline via 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or live online chat. Trained crisis workers are available to talk 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Your confidential, toll-free call goes to the nearest crisis center in the Lifeline national network. These centers provide crisis counseling and mental health referrals.
Niko Pina says
Hi, thank you for recognizing the dramatic suicide disparity rate. I currently work on the Crisis Text Line, a crisis intervention site much like the suicide hotline. The number is 741741 and anyone in crisis can text 24/7. We would be honored if you would make this information available to anyone who may need it. Thank you so much, please continue the great work!
Victoria Morgan says
I just have to address a statement made here. “ Historical disenfranchisement through genocide and institutional racism has resulted in American Indians and Alaska Natives experiencing poorer health and socioeconomic outcomes. These social determinants of health intersect to create a situation that is detrimental to the physical and mental health of Indian communities. Cultural disconnection, alienation and pressure to assimilate all contribute to higher rates of suicide among American Indians and Alaska Natives.”
I came here curious regarding high suicide rates among native Americans. But this statement isn’t true. When Native Americans received the “Separate Nation” status, they became responsible for the people within that nation. It is ran by them so saying that these issues have to do with systemic racism is just a lie. Since there seem to be a very high crime rate in their population, one would have to assume that any detrimental treatment at the hands of other Native Americans isn’t due to “racism”. The main issue would be that the leaders there are so corrupt that they continue to allow this treatment, especially of women. There is no one to hold these people accountable. They will never receive the help and assistance they need to change things if no one can be honest about the problem. There needs to be some type of investigation of these issues on the reservation. No woman should have to endure this in this day and age!
Caitlin Marie says
I just want to apologize on behalf of white folks for the above comment. You all deserve better.
Haley Arnold says
yeah no. let’s please not take this comment seriously.
Ryan Buntrock says
The Menominee tribe wasn’t able to sell there own timber, and weren’t recognized as citizens until the 1920s. You’re statements saying it is the native peoples fault for the complete destabilizing effects that the white people inflicted on them, is biased from a white washed view. How do you expect an area to become self sufficient, and eager for growth, when they were held down by the white keepers for so long?
Lemuxi Tadena says
Tribal Nations are not “seperate nations”, we acquired our Sovereignty through signing of treaties and ceding lands to the United States. While Tribes and their membership have their own reserved lands to continue their usual and accustomed traditional gathering and hunting, this land is not solely populated by native people. Many reservations across the country have several towns that were established, and though they are on the reservation lands, there are allotments and parcels that are owned by non-indians. So your statement that our tribal people are not impacted by any external racism is not true. Our young people are bullied in their schools, and pushed to the back of the classrooms every single day, yes sadly it can be by their own tribal people, but most often by the non-indian teachers, administrators, bus drivers, etc… The high crime rates you talk about on the reservations may also be the ripple effect of non-indians introducing drugs, alcohol, weapons to our young people. We did not manufacture these things, they are all foreign to all native people of this country. Everything that afflicts our children is a direct result of the doctrine, “kill the indian, save the man”. and unfortunately the hostilities in this world today are overshadowing our youth. I attempted to take my own life when I was 14 years old, and it was because of verbal abuse from my highly educated mother, it was learned behavior from her mother. I managed to get through, but not without starting my drinking career at the age of 15 1/2 years of age. Our people didn’t have alcohol, it was introduced to our people, and even that came with new disease to afflict our people. It’s easy to say that we should be responsible for our own, because we are a separate nation, but that separation comes at a very high cost, to our culture, our traditions, our family dynamic, our health, our ability to thrive in a world that attempted to exterminate us. I take offense to your words because I have buried many of my nieces and nephews, when they should be alive and living their lives as proud, wonderful, able Men and Women. I take offense to your words because, although your generation is not responsible for the horrible things that happened to our people during the 1800’s, you are still allowing yourself to be part of the problem by belittling and dehumanizing our native people.
You are an amazing writer. You should consider law school. There are schools that teach native law or you could be the first to teach it.
Orville N Harris Ph.D says
This is all very puzzling and depressing. It is clear that Europeans conquered Native American Tribes and destroyed
their ways of life. Many tribes want go back to those days but has not been possible for native people on other continents. Christian American sociologists, and economists
have a duty to join with Native leaders to design a way of living that preserves Native identities
and ethical and religious values
without being seen as a copy of
the white man’s way of life. All
civilizations and cultures change as they face crises over
the centuries.The high levels of suicide, drug abuse, alcoholism
and abuse of women are heart rending and unacceptable in any case. Something needs to be done by Americans and primary by Christian American
organizations of whatever origin
European, African or Asian. All
ethnic groups in America have their problems. But I don’t have to tell you why we all owe a special debt to Native American Tribes.
Pastors, religious leaders,
sociologists, university presidents newspaper editors
for God’s sake please help.
Odee Benson says
I just want to say that I am sorry that person said all those uneducated aggressive remarks to this organization trying to help prevent suicide. I wanted to do more research on Native American youth suicide prevention; that is why I am here. I live in Minnesota, and the suicide rate is alarmingly high for Native American youth. I, as a White counselor, want to help. I have done a lot of research. It is my understanding that violence on the reservations stems from sending children to White boarding schools and then submitting them to all kinds of abuse and humiliation. They lost their cultural upbringing and destroyed families that had their children taken away from them. White people told them they were not good enough to be parents. Then we sent the men to Urban cities for employment, where they were submitted to more humiliation and treated as if they were inferior to the White man. Before our arrival, they had ALL the land and spread out, so they did not thin out the wildlife they ate. We destroyed their families, children, land, and ability to provide for themselves. They are not to blame. We are. So that is why I want to help. Everyone can help in some way. It is not agencies or governments that need to help them. It is us doing whatever we can. So be human and just love each other. We are all responsible to live in peace with each other.