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National Suicide Prevention Month is recognized annually during the month of September to raise awareness about suicide prevention and treatment, as well as the warning signs and how to get help when it is needed most. 
 
The suicide rate in the United States has been rising for decades, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Native communities experience higher rates of suicide compared to all other racial and ethnic groups in the U.S., being the eighth leading cause of death for all American Indian and Alaska Natives (AI/AN) across all ages, according to the National Indian Council on Aging.  

When talking about mental health, suicide, or any other health issue in the Native American community, it’s important to note and acknowledge the historic trauma Indigenous communities face that has resulted in AI/AN people experiencing poorer health and socioeconomic outcomes. 

It is encouraged to also learn the warning signs of suicide. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), warning signs of suicide include:

  • Increased substance use and abuse
  • Feelings of emptiness, hopelessness or being trapped
  • Significant mood swings
  • Talk of wanting to die or being a burden
  • Withdrawal from friends and relatives
  • Feelings of intense guilt or shame
  • Making a plan or researching ways to die
  • Eating or sleeping more or less
  • Acting impulsively or recklessly 

Even when care can be accessed, it can be unhelpful in addressing the distress of Indigenous people, if not harmful, by perpetuating a negative view of their culture and themselves. For this reason, it is important for care providers to also understand culturally competent care and include suggestions on connecting that individual to their community as part of treatment. 

If you don’t have a health professional who can assist you, below is a list of federal agencies, organizations, articles, training materials, and resources on AI/AN suicide prevention. 

Federal Resources

Indian Health Services (IHS) Division of Behavioral Health

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Tribal Affairs

Substance Abuse and Mental Health services Administration Tribal Training and Technical Assistance Center

American Indian and Alaska Native Organizations

Suicide Prevention Resource Center American Indian and Alaska Native Website 

Center for Native American Youth

One Sky Center

American Indian Institute at the University of Oklahoma 

Suicide Prevention Organizations

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention 

Suicide Prevention Resource Center

AI/AN Suicide Prevention Publications and Resources

To Live to See the Great Day that Dawns: Preventing Suicide by American Indian and Alaska Native Youth and Young Adults

Restoring Balance-Community Readiness

Ensuring the Seventh Generation: A Youth Suicide Prevention Toolkit for Tribal Child Welfare Programs

Traditional Healing & Suicide Prevention in Native American Communities: Research & Policy Considerations

Northwest Suicide Prevention Tribal Action Plan

The AI/AN Suicide Prevention Strategic Plan 2011-2015 

If you or someone close to you are in need of support, you can call, text, or chat with 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, which provides 24/7, free and confidential support. 

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About The Author
Kaili Berg
Author: Kaili BergEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Staff Reporter
Kaili Berg (Aleut) is a member of the Alutiiq/Sugpiaq Nation, and a shareholder of Koniag, Inc. She is a staff reporter for Native News Online and Tribal Business News. Berg, who is based in Wisconsin, previously reported for the Ho-Chunk Nation newspaper, Hocak Worak. She went to school originally for nursing, but changed her major after finding her passion in communications at Western Technical College in Lacrosse, Wisconsin.