American Indians have the highest suicide rate in the United States of any racial/ethnic group.
In addition, suicide is the second leading cause of death for American Indians ages 10-34 years old. Survivors of suicide attempts require collaborative support. The American Association of Suicidology reports that for every death by suicide there are at least six people that experience a major life disruption. American Indians and Alaska Natives who die by suicide are 2.4 times more likely to have a friend or family member that died by suicide.
Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara Nation
Also known as the Three Affiliated Tribes, our work encompasses six different communities covering nearly one million acres. There are approximately 6,000 members living within the reservation along with American Indians from other tribes. We sought to close the gaps within the health care system by creating partnerships with local schools, the Tribal College, Tribal Social Services, and the Tribal Health Department. Elbowoods Memorial Health Center works with these agencies to develop early identification of persons at risk for suicide and referrals for treatment. There are minimal services to address the survivors of suicide attempts and their families or family members of those who have completed suicide. A person that is a survivor of suicide has an increased risk of dying by suicide. Every suicide attempt and completion impacts the community and without education, mental health services, and the availability and access to care the suicide rate will continue to climb. The barriers to conversation about suicide within American Indian Communities include guilt and shame, personal pain, collective grief, stigma and fear.
Promote resilience through in-person and virtual interventions
Building Resilience, Building Health focused on empowering the community to decrease the stigma of mental health and suicide in the community. After an initial clinically based intervention during the first year we moved towards primary prevention strategies in order to lay the groundwork for sustainable change. These strategies included equipping community members to generate conversations and building social support networks that adolescents can easily access when they are feeling stressed.
There were three main activities in our project. We focused on developing a community conference to provide a multigenerational forum for discussion about mental health and suicide prevention. We provided suicide prevention training to community members with a focus on reducing suicidal behaviors while highlighting life promoting activities. We also implemented a social media campaign to generate conversation and decrease stigma around mental health and suicide prevention.
LocationNew Town, North DakotaFocus Areas Community Impact