Wednesday, August 03, 2011

An Epidemic Of Suicide Among Native American Youth

Photo Credit: Kami Jo
Lorna Thackeray of the Billings Gazette reports on the disturbing rates of suicide of Native American youth:
"All the reasons that put young people at risk of suicide in the country at large are amplified on Indian reservations.

Indian children are more likely to be abused, see their mothers being abused and live in a household where someone is controlled by drugs or alcohol. They have the highest rates of emotional and physical neglect and are more likely to be exposed to trauma.

“The unfortunate and often forgotten reality is that there is an epidemic of violence and harm directed toward this very vulnerable population,” Dolores Subia BigFoot, director of the Indian Country Trauma Center at the University of Oklahoma, testified a before the Senate Committee of Indian Affairs during hearings on the Indian Youth Suicide Prevention Act of 2009.

“American Indian/Alaska Native children and youth experience an increase risk of multiple victimizations,” she said. “Their capacity to function and to regroup before the next emotional or physical assault diminished with each missed opportunity to intervene. These youth often make the decision to take their own lives because they feel a lack of safety in their environment. Our youth are in desperate need of safe homes, safe families and safe communities.”

...Weakening of those bonds and loss of culture and spirituality are among the reasons young people cannot find their way, she said.

Others describe historical and cultural trauma that remains ingrained in the Native American psyche. Colonization and racism and the abrupt end to traditional life still reverberate in new generations, said Clayton Small, a Cheyenne, who works in a nonprofit suicide prevention program.

Generational trauma weighs heaviest on the male population, he said. They commit suicide at a far higher rate than female Native Americans.

“In Indian Country the role of our men has been significantly altered,” Small said. “Then throw in poverty and violence and it descends into drug and alcohol abuse.”

He said one out of three Native American males end up incarcerated at some time during their lives, in part because their cases are brought in the relatively unforgiving federal system. With a criminal record, employment is nearly impossible to find and they suffer the indignity of not being able to support their families, Small said.

“We have to teach kids that they don't have to continue this cycle,” he said. “We have to teach them to cope with the stress and trauma they see every day.”
One organization that is seeking to stem this tide is Nations, a movement that seeks to develop leaders on the college campus by honoring Native American students and faculty by restoring their lives and culture with Jesus Christ. Nations embraces and honors First Nations people while recognizing that there is one true Creator who desires to restore what has been lost by placing his Son Jesus Christ at the center of American Indian life and culture. To learn more about this important organization, click here.

To read the rest of the Gazette article please click here.

(h/t to Racialicious for the link)

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I remember these disturbing statistics from college. When I was about to graduate Tech I was apart of this program that brought Native American high school students to Tech to wine and dine them and show them that they could be in college. Talking to the kids you could tell it was a desire that they werent sure they could reach. For a lot of them the biggest goal they had was getting a job at the local Sonic Drive-in. Some of the kids were really excited and wanted to go to college so bad. My heart breaks for them. Man its amazing the affects history can have on a people.