Healing Our Own People
Youth Suicide Prevention for Parents & Caregivers
Dear Parents, Grandparents, Aunties and Uncles,
The California Rural Indian Health Board (CRIHB) and the Healing Our Own People (HOOP) Program believe that suicide and suicidal behavior are preventable. The need is urgent, and the reasons are clear. Among American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) youth, the suicide rate is 2.5 times than it is for any other youth population. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among AI/AN youth ages 10-24 and the fourth leading cause of death for AI/AN adult ages 25 -44 years old.
A community’s youth are the center of hope for the survival of their people and their culture. They are also the living spirit of our tribal communities’ past and a vital part of its future. And yet, AI/AN youth and young adults have the highest suicide rate of any cultural or ethnic group in the United States.
Youth Suicide Prevention Toolkit for Parents:
Why do I need to watch for suicide?
- Suicide is the second leading cause of death for AI/AN youth ages 10 to 24 in the U.S.
- For each suicide death, family and close friends are at higher risk for suicide themselves.
- If you are concerned, don’t wait to talk to your child.
- Knowing the risk factors and warning signs helps you help your child with concerns about themselves or other youth.
- Asking directly about suicide tells your child it’s ok to talk about it with you.
- Take all suicidal thoughts, threats and behaviors seriously.
- Most suicidal people want to end severe emotional pain.
- Emotional pain makes it hard to think clearly, consider options or remember reasons for living.
Everyone has a role in preventing youth suicide. We hope your role will be to help support the suicide prevention efforts in your community. We thank you for your efforts to be informed about suicide and your commitment to be a resource for your family!
Myths and Facts
- Myth: A youth threatening suicide is not serious about it.
- Fact: Youth who talk about suicide are serious risks. It’s better to overestimate the risk of suicide and intervene than to ignore or minimize behaviors.
- Myth: Suicide cannot be prevented because a suicidal youth will find a way to do it.
- Fact: The keys to prevention are recognizing the warning signs and knowing what to do. Most suicidal youth do not want to die, they just want their pain to end.
- Myth: Talking about suicide will cause youth to attempt.
- Fact: Talking about suicide reduces the risk. Be direct in a caring, non-confrontational way. Open talk and concern are sources of relief and key for prevention.
- Myth: Talking about suicide, especially with adolescents, will “plant’ the idea.
- Fact: AI/AN youth and young adults are already well aware of suicide from their experience and conversations with suicidal peers and from the media. In fact, they are more likely to feel relief that someone cares enough to ask. Starting the conversation about suicide may help them to feel less alone and isolated. There is no evidence that youth who participated in general suicide education programs had any increase in suicidal thoughts or behavior.
- Myth: Only the experts can prevent suicide.
- Fact: Prevention is the task of the whole community. Everyone in the community needs to be involved in suicide prevention, from Tribal and Village leadership, to Elders, to the extended family, to teachers, and to youth and young adults themselves. Everyone can help to promote the mental health of youth as well as decrease factors that place them at risk. Everyone can be alert for signs that a young person may feel troubled.
- Myth: Individuals who are considering suicide keep their plans to themselves, and this secrecy makes prevention impossible.
- Fact: Individuals considering suicide frequently give verbal, behavioral, and situational “clues” or “warning signs” before they engage in suicidal behavior.
- Threatening to hurt or kill oneself or talking about wanting to hurt or kill oneself;
- Looking for ways to kill oneself by seeking access to firearms, pills, or other means;
- Talking or writing about death, dying, or suicide when these actions are out of the ordinary for the person;
- Feeling hopeless;
- Feeling rage or uncontrolled anger or seeking revenge;
- Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities-seemingly without thinking;
- Feeling trapped-like there’s no way out;
- Increasing alcohol or drug use;
- Withdrawing from friends, family, and society.
*To Live to See the Great Day That Dawns”, www.samhsa.gov
What you can do right now:
- Know suicide risk factors and warning signs.
- Share the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number 1-800-273-TALK with your child.
- Have a conversation about what your child should do if he is concerned about himself or a friend.
- Promote skills in problem-solving and conflict resolution.
- Maintain a supportive and involved relationship with your child.
- Encourage participation in cultural activities, sports, activities at school, or volunteering.
- Help your child develop strong communication skills.
- Get medical care for depression and substance use.
- Don’t leave a depressed or suicidal child home alone.
- Consolidated Tribal Health Project
- Greenville Rancheria Clinic
- Karuk Tribe
- Manchester Point Arena Band of Pomo Indians
- Pit River Health Services
- Riverside San Bernardino County Indian Health, Inc.
- Redding Rancheria Tribal Health Clinic
- Sacramento Native American Health Center
- Santa Ynez Tribal Health Clinic
- Smith River Rancheria
- Sonoma County Indian Health Project
- Toiyabe Indian Health Project, Inc.
- Tule River Indian Health Center, Inc.
- Warner Mountain Indian Health Clinic
- Yurok Tribe