Suicide is a sensitive issue, but one that is of great concern to many American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) communities. Data suggest that suicide is a significant problem throughout Indian Country, particularly among Native youth, males, veterans, and elders. From 2000-2005, the average suicide death rate was highest among AI/AN youth aged 15-24 (at 18.7 cases per 100,000, compared to 10.7 per 100,000 for White youth and 7.1 for Black youth). Nationwide in 2005, suicide was the second leading cause of death for AI/AN youth in that age range.
The Portland Area has one of the higher suicide death rates for AI/AN among the IHS service areas. The IHS reported that, from 1996-1998, the age-adjusted suicide death rate for the Portland Area was 22.0 per 100,000, a rate that was exceeded only by Aberdeen, Alaska, Bemidji, and Tucson.
At the state level, annual suicide rates for AI/AN tend to fluctuate widely because the actual number of deaths each year is relatively small. In 2005, for example, 12 AI/AN suicides occurred in Washington, 3 took place in Oregon, and 5 in Idaho. While males typically complete suicide more often that women, studies suggest that women actually attempt suicide more frequently than men. This pattern is also present among AI/ANs in the Pacific Northwest.
The Suicide Prevention Project will develop and disseminate culturally-appropriate prevention materials and resources, provide suicide prevention training and technical assistance, and offer financial support to NW tribes who are interested in implementing suicide prevention activities in their local communities. The goals of the Suicide Prevention Project follow the Northwest Suicide Prevention Tribal Action Plan and are to:
1. Increase knowledge and awareness about suicide among Tribal community members
2. Improve intertribal and interagency communication about suicide prevention and treatment
3. Increase the capacity of Tribal health programs to track, prevent, and treat suicide
4. Improve understanding among Tribal staff, Tribal decision-makers, State Health Departments, and potential funding organizations about suicide issues affecting NW Tribes