Each September 10, the International Association for Suicide Prevention sponsors World Suicide Prevention Day. Here in the United States, overall suicide rates have increased significantly since 1999 in almost every state, but suicide affects some groups far more than others. As we observe World Suicide Prevention Day, I’d like to call attention to the effect suicide has on tribal communities.
American Indian and Alaska Native youth ages 15-24 die by suicide at a rate four times the overall rate for this age group. Alarmingly, these suicides often occur in clusters—multiple suicides within a social group or small community in a short time.
Preventing the tragic loss of life from suicide is a unique challenge. SAMHSA focuses its resources through a new American Indian and Alaskan Native Addiction Technology Transfer Center and grant programs to help tribal communities prevent suicide. In addition to these efforts, a SAMHSA report offers hope and strategies to tribal communities seeking to prevent these suicides. The report describes how poverty, unemployment and historical trauma affect tribal communities experiencing clusters. Skills, coping strategies and resources that strengthen American Indian and Alaska Native communities are also discussed, such as commitment to tribal customs and traditional lifestyles.
World Suicide Prevention Day is an opportunity to spread the message that suicide can affect people from all walks of life and that help is readily available. In 2017, more than 1.5 million people called the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which is a 24-hour, toll-free confidential hotline. The Lifeline connects callers to one of over 160 crisis centers across the country. Callers who utilized the Lifeline while in crisis have shared that they felt less suicidal and safer after talking to a Lifeline counselor. Few people are aware that the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is funded and managed by SAMSHA.
There are also many other resources available from SAMHSA to help prevent suicide and provide support to those whose lives have been affected by suicide or suicide attempts. For example, SAMHSA supports the Suicide Prevention Resource Center, which provides skills training and materials to help suicide prevention experts and other professionals better serve people at risk for suicide. In-person training, online courses and webinars are also available through the Center. These learning opportunities promote safer care after a person survives a suicide attempt and improved collaboration among a variety of organizations in the suicide prevention field.
Suicide prevention is a key public health priority, and anyone can get involved. This September 10, let’s work together to prevent suicide. Remember, help is just a phone call away. If you are thinking about suicide, are worried about a friend or loved one or would like emotional support, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Additional Suicide Prevention Resources