Indigenous Suicide Prevention

Suicide Rates

Indigenous Peoples of the United States can be at a higher risk for suicide. If you’re struggling, the Lifeline is available to help, 24/7. 

The Indian Health Service agency says:

Despite the strengths of American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) families and communities, suicide remains a devastating and all too frequent event. Complex, interrelated factors contribute to an increased suicide risk among AI/AN people and include mental health disorders, substance abuse, intergenerational trauma, and community-wide issues. Factors that protect AI/AN youth and young adults against suicidal behavior are a sense of belonging to one's culture, a strong tribal/spiritual bond, the opportunity to discuss problems with family or friends, feeling connected to family, and positive emotional health. Cooperation among Tribal, Federal, and other partners is imperative to create a safety net of interconnected programming - health, education, law enforcement, public health and well-being, economic development, and physical and behavioral health - to maximize effectiveness of services and to protect individuals against suicide risk.

Warning signs

  • Hopelessness; feeling like there is no way out
  • Anxiety, agitation, sleeplessness, or mood swings
  • Feeling like there is no reason to live
  • Rage or anger
  • Engaging in risky activities
  • Increasing alcohol or drug abuse
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing or isolating themselves
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Extreme mood swings

The presence of any of the following signs requires immediate attention:

  • Thinking about hurting or killing themselves
  • Reading or seeking information on ways to die
  • Talking about death, dying, or suicide
  • Showing hopelessness or expressing that they have no reason to live
  • Talking about feeling trapped, being in unbearable pain, or a burden to others
  • Self-destructive or risk taking behavior, especially when it involves alcohol, drugs, or weapons

Prevention

The Suicide Prevention Lifeline outlines both how to help a friend or yourself struggling with suicide, depression, or crises.

Self-care

  • Talk with someone-you can reach out to the support network if you want to talk with someone confidentially. There are five options for calling or contacting this service
    • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline  (800) 273-8255
    • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Spanish Speaking 1 (888) 628-9454
    • Options for deaf and hearing impaired peoples  TTY, your preferred relay service, or dial 711 1 (800) 273-8255.
    • Veterans Crises Line 1 (800) 273-8255 or text 838255
    • Disaster distress helpline 1 (800) 273-8255 or text talkwithus to 66746.
  • Make a safety plan-this is a step by step plan you have created for yourself, or with a friend or family member that if you feel suicidal, depressed, or in a crises you can go through the plan until you feel safe.
  • Build your support network - creating positive emotional health can help create a sense of belonging to your culture. Building a strong bond with your tribe or spiritual leaders can also help.
  • Find an activity you enjoy - these are activities that help you feel good about yourself.

How to Help a Friend

  • Know the facts-risk factors for suicide include mental health disorders, substance abuse, intergenerational trauma, or community issues impacting your immediate community.
  • Ask and listen-this is about being present with your loved one. Being an active listener and watch for warning signs.
  • Get them help and take care of yourself-Use the lifeline for support and seeking counseling are ways to continue to develop a safe, emotional support system for yourself and loved one.
  • Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1 (800) 273-8255.

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