Oglala Sioux Tribe President Theresa Two Bulls declared a state of emergency Thursday in the face of overwhelming numbers of suicides and suicide attempts on the Pine Ridge Reservation.
Between October 2008 and August 2009, the OST Public Safety Department responded to 96 suicides and attempted suicides. Since September, there have been a rash of teen suicides on Pine Ridge. From Nov. 1 to Nov. 30, the OST ambulance service responded to 17 suicide calls.
Two Bulls mandated that Indian Health Services and all OST programs assist the Sweetgrass Project, OST’s suicide prevention program, “to the fullest extent of their services.” It also called for all schools and youth centers on the reservation to develop an action plan to keep gymnasiums and recreation centers open and available to youth on weekends and other “down times.”
Two Bulls called on parents, grandparents and other adults to listen to the tribe’s youth.
“It’s time to listen to teens to hear how we can help them – physically, mentally and emotionally,” she said. “A lot of these youth don’t get a hug a day. They never hear that they’re loved. We need to start using that word.”