Oglala Sioux Tribe

Sweetgrass Program
Garrett Lee Smith Tribal
South Dakota

The purpose of the Oglala Sioux Tribe Tribal Youth Suicide Prevention Program is to develop and implement a comprehensive and sustainable program to prevent suicide among Tribal youth, ages 15-24. The approach has been designed to increase community awareness and support, strengthen capacity and resources for early identification of at-risk youth, and develop comprehensive and sustainable systems to prevent youth suicide. It builds on the current 2008 Tribal Youth Suicide Program grant to the OST and proposes two evidence-based programs American Indian Life Skills Development and Sign of Suicide to be implemented in middle and high schools on the Reservation.

The suicide rate for South Dakota young people, ages 15 to 24, is double the average rate in the nation and young American Indian males in South Dakota die from suicide at a rate that is four to five times the national rate. The OST Tribal Work Group on Youth Suicide Prevention has identified several specific areas of need that, together, offer promise for developing a sustainable program for Tribal youth suicide prevention. These include:

  1. Need for greater community awareness, support, coordination, and resources for youth suicide prevention;
  2. Need to develop and establish linkages between Tribal and Indian Health Service to coordinate and support referral, and follow-up of at-risk youth; and
  3. Need to provide young people with the understanding and skills to cope with depression and problems

The OST Program has four primary goals:

Goal 1: Increase community awareness, support, coordination, and resources for Tribal Youth Suicide Prevention;

Goal 2:Strengthen capacity and resources for referral, and follow-up of at-risk youth;

Goal 3: Extend American Indian Life Skills Development Curriculum and SOS Signs of Suicide Program to six middle/high schools; and

Goal 4: Contribute to local, regional, and national knowledge and effective strategies for Tribal Youth Suicide Prevention.

The approach is community-based, incorporates culture and traditions of the Tribe and local communities within the Reservation, emphasizes coordination among existing organizations that serve youth and families, builds capacity for sustaining the program through training and resource development, and strengthens linkages between Tribal, State, and local resources for youth suicide prevention. Involvement of Oglala Lakota College, with established campuses in several areas of the Reservation, offers the opportunity to expand training and skills on youth suicide prevention to social work and other students who are likely to seek jobs on the Reservation. The approach also includes a well-designed local evaluation, to monitor the effectiveness of services and to advance knowledge of youth suicide prevention.