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Indigenous Cultural Well-Being

Youth suicide is an important public health priority for all Americans, it is an especially critical issue for American Indians. North America’s Indigenous peoples have disproportionately high rates of suicide deaths, attempts, and ideation, and suicide deaths are approximately 50% higher for AI/AN people than for White people. However, AI/AN elder suicides are quite rare. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among AI/AN adolescents and young adults, and their rate of suicide is 2.5 times as high as the national average across all ethno- cultural groups.

Previous research has identified potential targets for intervention at multiple levels, including increasing coping skills, reducing the stigma of mental health services, and building community infrastructure for prevention and health promotion, Unique challenges in Indigenous communities include distrust of formal services, ongoing marginalization, poverty, underemployment, lack of basic services, and collective disempowerment.

Indigenous communities have voiced concern that most research has focused on risk factors, psychopathology, and deficit models, which encourage individual and group stigmatization and even self-stigmatization. As a consequence, many Indigenous communities are drawn to strengths-based models. Such approaches tend to emphasize the protective role of culture, cultural processes, and activities in prevention. Such consideration of matters of well-being and positive health outcomes can direct attention to local contextual factors, families, and community networks that bolster the material, institutional, cultural, political, and historical factors that may protect against suicide.

IINII uses a revolutionary Design Thinking process to help your school community gain an understanding of one’s sense of self, as well as developing an understanding of students’ and parents’ values; having an understanding of one’s values matters because research has shown that it is linked to better well-being, less stress, and increased confidence in one’s ability to succeed.

Understanding students’ values can be developed with culturally sustaining practices that reflect a student’s identity and experience. Particularly helpful is focusing efforts on cultural competence and relevance and providing opportunities for students to practice bridging differences between diverse identities in a safe environment. To learn how you can create a dynamic youth-centered environment that honors the unique values of your students and parents, visit our website at, or contact us at or 1800-507-2502.

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