The Mental Health Minute

Articles and news about mental health issues

Senate looks at suicide on Indian reservations

Here is an article that shows suicide to be a very real problem for all of our youth.  This article addresses suicides of our American Indian youth.  The statistics in this article are terrifying.  These are young people who obviously are not receiving what they need from their community, their society, or their country.

I am appalled that these statistics are not being discussed nightly on the evening news.  Unless and until we are willing to bring this type of  issue to the table and deal with it together, I think we will never find an answer.

Please read this article.  If, after reading, you feel differently please leave a comment and tell me your thoughts.

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By MATTHEW DALY (AP) – 1 day ago

WASHINGTON — At 15, high school sophomore Coloradas Mangas knows all too much about suicide.

He’s recently had several friends who took their own lives, and he survived a suicide attempt himself.

Coloradas, a member of the Chiricahua Apache tribe, lives on the Mescalero Apache Reservation in New Mexico, where there have been five youth suicides since the start of the school year. All were his friends.

Coloradas went to Capitol Hill Thursday to tell lawmakers about the urgent problem of suicide among Native Americans. Tribal suicide rates are 70 percent higher than for the general population, and the youth suicide rate is even higher. On some reservations youth suicide rates are 10 times the national average.

“Things go wrong that they can’t change,” Coloradas said, trying to explain the high rate of suicide in his community. “They don’t get shown the love they need. They say, ‘You don’t love me when I was here. Now you love me when I’m not here.’ ”

On the mountainous Mescalero reservation, located in south-central New Mexico more than 200 miles south of Albuquerque, a single mental health clinic serves a tribe of more than 4,500 people. The closest 24-hour Hotline is in Albuquerque.

Calls for help are usually answered by tribal police or law enforcement officers from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, said Jeremiah Simmons, coordinator of Honor Your Life, a teen outreach program in Mescalero, N.M. While praising police, Simmons said their highly visible presence often results in what he called “criminalization” of suicidal thoughts — making teens reluctant to reach out.

Decades of shame and silence among tribe members about suicide compound the problem, Simmons said.

Coloradas, wearing a traditional Apache shirt and a red bandanna over his long black hair, said he was nervous about testifying, but was spurred on by his grandmother, a community leader who named him after one of his ancestors, Mangas Coloradas, a well-known Apache chief.

“I am from a new generation of young men and women who believe in breaking the silence and seeking help,” Coloradas testified. “I come from a people whose pride runs deeps, but I also understand that sometimes pride can keep us from asking for help.”

He urged the panel to boost staff at the reservation’s mental health clinic and create a youth shelter where teens can go “when the home life becomes very toxic.” Such a center may prevent teens from trying to take their own lives, he said.

Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D. chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, called the rate of youth suicide in Indian Country a crisis that demands urgent attention.

“It is an ongoing tragedy, made more so by the fact that it is so preventable,” Dorgan said. “Native Americans need more mental health providers and resources, and if they had them, many of these deaths could be prevented.”

Dorgan said the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, approved as the part of the health care overhaul signed by President Barack Obama, would authorize a comprehensive youth suicide prevention effort on Indian reservations. The bill also boosts mental health resources throughout Indian Country.

“We are doing everything we can to recognize (the suicide problem) and put a spotlight on it and understand how to address it, in order to save the lives of young people,” Dorgan said.

(This version CORRECTS in paragraph 9 that this grandmother is still alive.)

Here’s the link to the original article

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March 27, 2010 - Posted by | Mental Health | , , , , ,

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