Congressional Hearing Explores High Suicide Rates Among American Indian Youth
Eight policymakers, tribal members and health care experts discussed the high rate of suicide among American Indian youth on Thursday during a Senate Committee on Indian Affairs hearing, CQ HealthBeat reports. According to Robert McSwain, director of the Indian Health Service, suicide is the second leading cause of death among American Indians ages 15 to 24 who live in IHS service areas. Suicide among American Indians and Alaska natives is 70% higher than that of the general U.S. population, according to Committee Chair Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) (Attias, CQ HealthBeat, 2/27).
Sen. Tom Udall's (D-N.M.) office said that research has shown factors such as drug and alcohol use, unemployment, isolation, domestic violence, barriers to effective mental health care and gang activity are suicide risk factors. Complicating suicide prevention among American Indian youth is the ability to address cultural sensitivities, as well as that IHS is underfunded, Marissa Padilla, a spokesperson for Udall, said.
Padilla added, "With increased funding comes increased services. IHS being 40% underfunded is a travesty. We have to beef up what IHS receives in order to improve the systems that exist within it."
In a statement, Udall said, "The suicide rates among our Native youth are devastating, and we must continue to do everything possible to help prevent this vicious cycle. Tribal members must have access to support systems that are culturally sensitive and flexible to their needs" (Montelone, Farmington Daily Times, 2/28).
Robert Moore, a member of the Great Plains Tribal Chairmen's Association and the Aberdeen Area Tribal Chairman's Health Board, called for improved communication, cooperation, and data sharing between tribes and IHS (CQ HealthBeat, 2/27).