Suicide Rate Soars Among Native American Youth

Congress heard testimony lately to contribute more help to American Indian tribal governments to combat youth suicide.

Several mental health advocates who testified at the congressional hearing on Capitol Hill called on lawmakers to increase funding for staff and resources in the mental health arena.

“During the 2008 and 2009 fiscal years we have had an average number of up to 60 community members waiting to access our behavior health services to an average of up to three months before they could even see a councilor or clinician,” said Hunter Genie, a behavioral health administrator for the Saginaw Chippewa tribe in Michigan.

In most Native American communities, youth suicide rates are three times higher than the U.S. national average. Randy Grinnell, the Indian Heath Service Deputy Director, said it’s essential to detect early warning signs and treat mental illness to prevent suicides.

The Indian Health Care Improvement Act that was recently permanently reauthorized allows the creation of a comprehensive Indian youth suicide prevention effort.

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