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Suicides Continue to Plague Indian Country

Suicides Continue to Plague Indian Country
April 25
14:11 2016

Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye and Vice President Jonathan Nez have made teen suicide prevention a major issue during their administration, but a new study suggests that the Navajo Executive Branch has its work cut out for them.

Suicides among Native Americans and Alaskan Natives have always been abnormally high compared to other races, but a new study shows a continued growth in that pattern over the past 15 years.

Since 1999 the suicide rates for natives have risen a whopping 89%

Among young natives between the ages of 15-24, the suicide rate is double the national average.

In September of 2015 the board of directors for Utah Navajo Health Systems, located in Montezuma Creek, declared a state of emergency after a series of suicides in the communities it serves.

“Suicide is just not a problem on Navajo, it’s a problem throughout Indian Country,” Nez said back then.

It’s a big problem in Indian Country, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

The center’s report showed that the Native American suicide rate in 1999 was 4.6 suicides per 100,000 people. In 2015 that rate has jumped to 8.7 per 100,000 – an 89% hike.

The numbers are even more drastic if you isolate the statistics of Native American and Alaskan Native men. That suicide rate is 27.4 per 100,000 – a 38% increase since 1999.

As sad as those statistics are, the real numbers are likely much worse.

The NCHS report also warns that suicides among Native American and Alaskan Natives may be underreported by as much as 30%.

In many Native American communities – including the Navajo – suicide is a taboo topic. Begaye and Nez want people to be more open in talking about the issue, making it easier for someone that is struggling to seek help.

Nez believes that intergenerational teaching between the elders and youth could be the answer.

Tribal leaders have reported to Congress that the root causes of suicide include poverty, depression, bullying, alcoholism, drug abuse and other social conditions.

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