Youth Suicide in Native Americans Essay
Youth Suicide in Native Americans
“I’m all alone nobody cares whether I live or die. All I ever do is cause problems for everyone. I can’t make it through school, I cause my family problems. I’m a failure in everything that is important to me. The only way out of this is to die. ”(Suicide letter) This is what it must feel like to be on the verge of suicide, a horrible epidemic which has spread through the nation’s Native American tribe’s wildfire. Subsequently, suicide ranked as the second leading cause of death for those from age ten to thirty-four.
(Olson,19) . Yet, although suicide seems to be a very pressing issue, it doesn’t receive the national attention to the degree it should. In particular teen suicide specifically in Native Americans, who commit suicide more than any other racial group in the United States. (Native Americans today) Many factors can contribute to suicide from problems at home and school to family losses, poor health awareness, and addictive behaviors such as alcohol and drugs.
Not only do Native American teens have to deal with the all the aforementioned pressures but also face discrimination and indifference from a dominant culture as well as an oppressive government who has for a long time marginalized them. A government which has so long held back a culture in an ever growing society. Native American teens share much of the issues Americans face that can contribute to thoughts or intentions to commit suicide. One critical issue is alcohol and drug abuse. In Native Americans alcohol and drug addiction run rampant.
Alcohol addiction is multigenerational spanning from grandparents to parents to even kids, posing a serious problem for Native American teens. This is a never ending process, cyclical if you will. According to the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse data showed that fifty percent of all American adolescents have used alcohol. This is considerably higher in Native American youth which was just a little over eighty percent. Alcoholism remains the single most serious substance problem facing Native Americans today.
Alcoholism is described by progressively severe patterns of drinking notorious for an increasing inability to control use, even with severe and life-threatening consequences . And according to the Arizona department of health services the alcohol related mortality rate among native people was 49. 3 deaths per 100,000. This statistic was substantially higher compared to other major races. Blacks were at six, whites at eight, and Hispanics topping at ten deaths per 100,000. Such heightened mortality rates among natives have directly affected the youth as any one of these casualties could possibly be someone’s mother, father, or relatives.
Such a drastic experience in one’s life especially at an early stage in ones development presents itself to be of great magnitude to ones mental health. Substance abuse also affects young native people disproportionately, and threatens the health, vitality, and future productivity of the next generation. As indicated by the national drug survey who stated that native youth are more likely to have used an illegal drug and smoked cigarettes in the last thirty days (azdhs. gov). Drug abuse is also associated with domestic violence, suicide, and gang participation among Native American youth.
As such it creates a threat for their children and community who in turn are negatively influenced. Many are calling for a revival in the community and an increase in communication to spike awareness. Awareness being one of the targeted goals that native people must improve in order to bring down suicide rate. More importantly they are voicing their opinion for a more practical approach to such issues. Domestic Abuse is also correlated with alcohol. Alcohol has so long been imbedded in the Native American culture ever since it was introduced to them by the European settlers.
The Navajo nation held a meeting of more than 200 people focusing on Youth issues. One of the main concerns on the agenda was domestic violence. According to one of the questioners two out of five children had experienced domestic violence in their homes (the Navajo times online). Witnessing violence in such a secure place as their home is a very frightening event, one that stays with them and eventually damages ones psychosocial health. Research indicates that children who witness domestic violence show more anxiety, low self esteem depression, anger and temperament problems (ACADV).
Both of these combined together can damage a youth mentally and physically, presenting negative consequences in the future . Effects from domestic abuse involve self abuse, shame, guilt, depression and feelings of powerlessness(ACADV). Such a hot issue has led to the breakdown of the Native American family. A healthy family which is one of the most critical components in the nurturing of youth and adolescents. And according to the Navajo nation the problem is with a lot of the parents on the reservation. ”We are not teaching our children that this is acceptable behavior” says D.
Harrison Tsosie a native in the Navajo tribe. He further states that they “must make it a top priority”. If families joined in the effort the problem would be greatly alleviated. Not only that Native Americans are behind in programs to deal with or identify these addictions. One reason is the fact that they don’t receive the adequate funding from the government. Without funding, tribes are behind in constructing programs to help the mentally ill. Not only that, Native American suicide doesn’t receive the attention it requires. As a result youth are at the forefront of the suffering.
Lack of attention of these social issues and the unawareness, or for better terms ignorance from the government, may drive some teens to consider suicide. The US Government seems to put Native Americans problems to the curb and has been for a very long time. Making promise after promise but with no follow through. Obama has taken the initiative to put these problems at the forefront personally guaranteeing that as long as he’s in the white house they will not be forgotten. His administration has already helped Native Americans with the 787 billion dollar stimulus package, 500 million going to the Indian health service (USAtoday.com).
The government must not only pour funding but also oversee its production. But this is a step in the right direction In the end, suicide is not caused by one factor but by many. Some are known while others may never be known. In order to have any shot to lower suicide rates native Americans must target and bring awareness to social issues such as domestic, alcohol, and drug abuse. Not only that the native tradition of “family” must be improved to maintain a healthy and communicable relationship with youth.
Government must also step in and do its job; doing so will help in the combined effort to help and support the native youth. Works Cited Branch, Jones. “Obama promises Native Americans place on agenda. ” USA today 11/5/2009. . 2/05/2011 http://www. usatoday. com/news/washington/2009-11-05-obama-indians_N. htm Donovan, Bill. “Candidate forum focuses on youth issues. ” Navajo Times Online July 29, 2010. . 2/6/2011 . Four Worlds Development Project. (1984c). Understanding and preventing the problem of alcohol and drug abuse (Adult Education Series, Discussion Paper One).
Lethbridge, Alberta: Lethbridge University. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 266 893) Gale, Nancy . “Fighting Alcohol and Substance Abuse among American Indian and Alaskan Native Youth. ERIC Digest. ” 1991-07-00. . 2/5/2011 . Gerard, Susan. “Prevention and treatment of substance abuse in native communities. 2/5/2011 . Olson, L. M. , & Wahab, S. (2006). American Indians and suicide: A neglected area of research. Trauma, Violence, and Abuse, 7(1), 19- 21 Pagelow, Angel. “The effects of domestic violence on children. ” 10/5/2004. . 2/5/2011 .
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