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Suicide Cripples Indigenous Youth

Thousands of individuals die from suicide every year, and American Indian and Alaskan Natives (AI/AN) may be more affected by suicide than any other racial group. The most recent reports by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that between 2012 and 2013, the national suicide rate remained stable at 12.6 suicides per 100,000 people (Kochanek et al. 2014). However, for American Indians, the rate was substantially higher than this national average, at 15.6 per 100,000 (in both 2012 and 2013).

Freedenthal and Stiffman (2004) suggest that adolescent AI/AN are at an increased risk of suicide, compared to other age groups; however, this pattern is atypical of the national trend for suicidal behavior. Suicide increases with age among all racial groups, while remaining highest among the AI/AN populations at every age group, from 0–40 (Kochanek et al. 2014). Suicide typically becomes a heightened risk factor as individuals grow older . Scholars are exploring the risk of adolescent suicide (see, Borowsky et al. 1999; Fried et al. 2013; Nofziger and Callanan 2016) but few, if any, have explored the mechanisms that may be contributing to the increased suicidal behavior of American Indian and Alaskan Native adolescents.

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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