On March 15, the American Psychological Association (APA) hosted a Congressional Briefing on Native American youth suicide to raise awareness of federal efforts to prevent suicide among American Indians and Alaska Natives. CNAY attending the briefing and panel which included experts in the area of American Indian and Alaska Native health, including: Lynette Grey Bull, Director and Chair of the Arizona Commission of Indian Affairs, Dr. Richard McKeon, Chief of the Suicide Prevention Branch of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and Dr. Gayle Morse, Associate Professor at the Sage College of Albany.
The panel focused on the fact that American Indian and Alaska Native young adults have the highest suicide rates across every demographic group in the United States. American Indian and Alaska Native youths (ages 15-34) have a suicide rate that is nearly 1.5 times higher than the national average for this age group.
Despite these alarming statistics, there is a severe lack of access to mental health services at tribal health facilities and Indian Health Services. Furthermore, providers are often not trained to understand cultural issues that may affect outcomes. These barriers, coupled with disproportionate levels of trauma, substance abuse, poverty, unemployment, and lack of educational attainment adds to the growing list of problems contributing to the suicide epidemic among tribal nations. During the panel, many programs and funding opportunities designed to address this issue were shared. Panelists asked Congress to increase funding to improve those programs and resources.