Suicide Prevention in Rural Tribal Communities

August 14, 2015

News Type:  Weekly Spark, Weekly Spark Research

The authors of this review article conclude that the high rate of suicide among American Indians—and especially youth—in rural areas results from a combination of the risk factors that characteristically contribute to high rates of rural suicide (e.g., social isolation, lack of access to services, and substance abuse) with the long-term consequences of historical trauma that are specific to American Indian communities (for example, forced relocation and attempts to exterminate Indian cultures). They maintain that effective suicide prevention in this population requires multilevel, trauma-informed interventions that support resilience and “the inherent strengths of small, close-knit, and culturally focused communities.”

The authors provide a comprehensive set of recommendations for community-based suicide prevention programming that combines evidence-based best practices, focuses on enhancing resilience and protective factors, and is implemented with cultural sensitivity. They note that this programming should involve schools, primary care and emergency care personnel, law enforcement, families, and elders. In addition, they recommend that the federal government (1) continue to support suicide prevention in tribal communities through Garrett Lee Smith Act funding, (2) increase funding to develop and implement culturally specific evidence-based practices, (3) increase the number of AI/AN behavioral health professionals by supporting training and educational opportunities, (4) support school programs that address suicide and related mental health issues, and (5) support community infrastructure development, including employment skills training.

This summary is based on: Taylor, M. A., Anderson, E.M., & Bruguier Zimmerman, M.J. (2014). Journal of Rural Mental Health 38(2), 87-97.