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Alarming Suicide Trends in American Indian/Alaska Natives Communities

Over the last decade, youth suicide rates have increased across the U.S. There are many reasons that factor into this alarming trend – cultural trauma, substance abuse, domestic abuse, poverty and lack of resources are just some of the causes. But with the pandemic, mental health is on the decline – particularly for American Indian/Alaska Natives (AI/AN). In fact, Native youth have the highest rates of depression amongst any other racial or ethnic group.



Causes that factor into these trends:

Prior to colonization, alcohol was never used in Indigenous communities. Alcohol was introduced as a method of trade and manipulation. Europeans would ensure that Natives were drunk so Europeans could benefit from trades negotiations. Substance and alcohol abuse is now a major concern within Indigenous communities


Intergenerational trauma such as genocide, forcible removal, destruction of lands, poverty, lack of resources, assimilation have resulted in identity loss. Genetically, the effects of trauma are passed down through generations which may predispose Indigenous peoples to higher rates of depression and PTSD and suicide.


Indigenous populations are less likely to have access to health insurance and mental health services.


Higher rates of domestic violence and physical/sexual abuse also factor into these trends. Indigenous populations are more likely to experience or witness domestic violence and rape in their lifetime. They experience 2x higher rates of PTSD than the general population. Abuse survivors are significantly more likely to attempt suicide.



Click here for a comprehensive list of resources in the battle for suicide prevention References:

https://www.aspeninstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/files/content/images/Fast%20Facts.pdf

https://www.nicoa.org/national-american-indian-and-alaska-native-hope-for-life-day/

https://discoverymood.com/blog/mental-health-statistics-in-native-americans-numbers-dont-lie/#:~:text=Native%20Americans%20represent%20less%20than,health%20disorder%20during%20their%20lifetimes.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6761887/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK44242/

https://www.colemanservices.org/suicide-rates-are-escalating/

https://www.blackhillsfox.com/2020/08/29/native-american-suicide-rates-are-27-times-higher/ https://www.minorityhealth.hhs.gov/omh/browse.aspx?lvl=4&lvlid=39

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