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Suicide among Native American Teens

I need some thoughts in creating a paper discussing the major risk factors faced by the youth of today (Native American Youth Suicide). I need to be able to discuss the current influential factors and how they can be addressed by the various participating systems.

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Suicide Incidence as a trend among Native American Youth

Teen depression is a social phenomenon that is common around the world. Reaching puberty introduces a teen into a world of change - hormones, body, needs, perspectives, responsibilities. Sometimes this can get too much for a teen especially if he or she does not receive the necessary support to handle the changes to help the teen ease into young adulthood and survive his or her teen-years with a sense of self-worth & meaningful growth. The subject of teen depression is a big subject to tackle. There are varied statistics that explain the rate of depression among teens by age group, ethnicity, and social status. There are also varied psychological studies that investigate the reasons behind it and studies that are aimed to fight teen depression to stop it from becoming much worse. Depression is that "transient response to many situations and stresses. In adolescents, depressed mood is common because of the normal maturation process, the stress associated with it, the influence of sex hormones, and independence conflicts with parents." (Teen Depression Group, 2005). The worst outcome of depression and related states is suicide, an event with (Psychology Today, 2015), "strong emotional repercussions for its survivors and for families of its victims." In the US, around 40,000 people a year take their own lives and according to SAVE (2015), "For young people 15-24 years old, suicide is the second leading cause of death." In 2010, Native American Advocate Winter Rabbit who is part of the Lakota of the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota declared that there is a 'State of Emergency' on youth suicide in their community as it was officially acknowledged by the Ogallala Sioux Tribe President Theresa Two Bulls. This paper will look into the social issue of youth suicide in Native American communities, with a particular focus on the Lakota to determine the factors that lead to this outcome for determining interventions that can be effective.

Suicide, often carried out because the individual sees no other way out from despair, hopelessness and problems, while attribute to mental disorders is also seen as being caused by the 'sum total of issues, traumas and life difficulties' experienced by an individual in that the individual sees his or her problems as extremely overwhelming that the only way 'out' is to kill one's self. According to the Aspen Institute (n.d.), "According to the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 16 percent of students at Bureau of Indian Affairs schools in 2001 reported having attempted suicide in the preceding 12 months...Violence, including intentional injuries, homicide and suicide account for 75% of deaths for American Indian (AI) /Alaskan Native (AN) youth age 12-20...Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death - and 2.5 times the national rate - for AI/AN youth in the 15-24 age group. 22% of females and 12% of males reported to have attempted suicide, while 5% had serious thoughts of suicide in the past year." There are currently 3 million Native Americans or Alaska Natives in the US plus another 2.3 million Americans who consider themselves to have AI or AL ancestry. With the youth occupying a third of this particular population, it can be estimated that for every 100,000 AI/AN youth, the rate of suicide is 19.3, more than double that of mainstream American teens making it a major social concern.

Causes of the Phenomenon

Horwitz (2014) in a piece of the Washington Post argued that the main cause on youth suicide among AI/AN is the social reality of their 'hard lives'. Horwitz (2014) writes, "A toxic collection of pathologies — poverty, unemployment, domestic violence, sexual assault, alcoholism and drug addiction — has seeped into the lives of young people among the nation's 566 tribes. Reversing their crushing hopelessness, Indian experts say, is one of the biggest challenges for these communities." Horwitz (2014) exposed the situation as dire as exemplified in her investigation of the phenomenon at the Tulalip Reservation, home to the Tulalip Tribe in the state of Washington. Her interview of Theresa Pouley, chief judge of the Tualalip Tribal Court iterated that, "One-quarter of Indian children live in poverty, versus 13 percent in the United States. They graduate high school at a rate 17 percent lower than the national average. Their substance-abuse rates are higher. They're twice as likely as any other race to die before the age of 24. They have a 2.3 percent higher rate of exposure to trauma. They have two times the rate of abuse and neglect. Their experience with post-traumatic stress disorder rivals the rates of returning veterans from Afghanistan." What is evident is that the problem is the same across the 566 tribes in America. For example (Horwitz, 2014), the River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community in Scottsdale, Arizona report that the teens or youth of their community know so many who took their lives and have had to grapple with the impact of suicide on others. Horwitz (2014) argues that, "Youth suicide was once virtually unheard of in Indian tribes. A system of child protection, sustained by tribal child-rearing practices and beliefs, flourished among Native Americans, and everyone in a community was responsible for the safeguarding of young people." But with attempts at immersion, loss of culture and the mix of poverty, lack of opportunities and education all contribute to risky lifestyles and outlooks that lead to tragic outcomes, including suicide.

Risk & Protective Factors

Woodard (2012) argues that, "The suicide risk factors for Native youth are well known and widely reported. In their homes and communities, many Native youngsters face extreme poverty, hunger, alcoholism, substance abuse and family violence. Diabetes rates are sky high, and untreated mental illnesses such as depression are common. Unemployment tops 80 percent on some reservations, so there are few jobs—even part-time or after-school ones. Bullying and peer pressure pile on more trauma during the vulnerable teen years." Couple this with the 'shared heritage' of being at the end of 'abuse' from loss of land, ´cultural heritage, language and practices - the 'sorrow' legacy of their history and ethnic circumstance makes life to so many Native American teens too much to bear. The problem is, according to Woodard (2012), frequency has somewhat led to a notion of the suicide becoming 'normalized' as an outcome. Woodard (2012) wrote, "In some communities, suicide has become so ordinary that boys in particular may dare each other to try it," and in so doing show that historical trauma and other factors have made 'suicide' an expected route to take for young people, made much more exacerbated by the fact that teens do not fully realize that attempting suicide can bring permanent results that destroys lives and communities. In terms of teen suicide risk factors, what impacts AI and AN teens are much the same as mainstream teens as follows (Kaslow, ...

Solution Summary

The solution provides information, assistance and advise in tackling the task (see above) on the topic of suicidality among Native American teens. Resources are listed for further exploration of the topic.

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