Suicide Prevention Among Native Americans

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Suicide Prevention among Native Americans on the Reservations of South Dakota

Suicide Prevention among Native Americans On the Reservations Of South Dakota

During the most recent five years for which data are available (1999-2003), Native Americans in South Dakota died by suicide at twice the rate (24.2 per 100,000 population) than whites (12.1/100K). The disproportionate rate at which suicide affects indigenous people is highlighted when one considers that 8% of the state's population is Native American, while 15% of the suicide deaths are among those from Indian Country. (Of the 499 suicides in the state in those five years, 76 of the fatalities were among Native Americans, 417 where whites, and 6 were among other races.)

"Suicide is the third leading cause of death... in the United States." (Borowsky et al., 1997, p. 89). However, "suicide rates for American Indians and Alaska Natives...are two to three times higher than the national average." (Keane et al., 1996, p. 738) The problem is one of great magnitude. The United States has a responsibility to a population in trouble. It ought to concern each member of the population, not just those immediately affected. The root of the problem is in early colonial America when the settlers entered the country and began stealing the land from the Native Americans. This also resulted in a chain of negative events that would influence Native Americans in a negative way ever since.

The exploitation of their land, their work and their differences from the Anglo-Saxon settlers was only the beginning. The hardships that followed as a result of this history of oppression are innumerable. One of these devastating effects is the suicide rate among this minority population. Nearly two times as high as for the rest of the population of the United States, the suicide statistics on Native Americans are something we should not, and cannot, ignore. (Novins, et al., 1997, p. 1246) What does this indicate? The rates of depression and suicidal tendencies are so high that they indicate something about the quality of life of these people- and the injustices that they suffer. In this paper, I will first look at and identify the problem of suicide, and its horrible effects on the Native American population in the United States. I will then cite possible reasons why this is such a problem for the Native Americans. The crisis that these people are going through is based on certain structural factors that have perpetuated it. Finally, I will discuss the ways that the government and the people are putting forth effort to help, or how they are neglecting to help, the American Indians.

Why are the Native Americans afflicted with depression and high suicidal tendencies? This crisis is not just a growing trend; suicide among Native Americans has become an epidemic that we cannot ignore any longer.

"American Indians and Alaska Natives have the highest suicide rates of all ethnic groups in the US. In a study of 11,666 American Indian and Alaska Native teenagers, 22% of the ...
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