A HISTORY OF DESPAIR
Although depression and suicide affect people of all ages and ethnicities, Indigenous peoples have disproportionately high rates of suicidal thoughts, attempts, and deaths — more than double that of the mainstream population. What’s more, Native youth (age 10-24 years) experience the highest rate of suicide of any population group in the United States. These rates have been steadily climbing since 2003.
Native Americans have a disproportionately high rate of suicide — more than 3.5 times those of ethnic groups with the lowest rates — a rate that has been steadily rising since 2003.
Those at the highest risk of suicide within First Nations communities are youth aged 10 to 24 years. More than one-third of suicides have occurred in that group compared with 11% of whites in the same age group.
Complex factors contribute to high suicide rates among First People. Coupled with depression and mental illness, Natives are also more vulnerable to other interrelated issues. Studies have shown that Indigenous people are more than twice as likely to have a family or friend’s suicide contribute to their own suicidal death — an effect referred to as “suicide contagion.” Additionally, nearly 28% of the people who took their own lives had reported alcohol abuse problems, and 49% had used alcohol in the hours before their death.
Compounding these problems, Native communities often lack access to suicide prevention programs that meet their cultural needs. According to a CDC study, about 70% of Native people live outside of metropolitan areas, including on reservations where there are fewer mental health services. Those at risk have a much lower chance of receiving a mental health diagnosis or effective mental health treatment. There is also a distinctive lack of community-level support groups that focus on the “postvention” of survivors.
The Red Road targets suicide prevention from a overarching community view, as well as from an individual-based perspective. We aim to address the problems—mental health disorders, substance abuse and intergenerational trauma—while coming up with solutions—the strengthening of our culture, educational institutions and healthcare services.