Suicide The struggle of American Indians

Native Americans have struggled with mental health and suicide just as any other race, ethnicity, and cultural group has. However, their forced isolation has made it difficult for American Indians to get proper help for illnesses such as alcoholism, depression, and drug addiction. This is not a neglected person; this is a neglected community.

In Sherman Alexie's novel, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part- Time Indian, the main character Arnold is faced with a lot of death in his life. His dad's best friend is murdered by a drinking buddy over the last sip of wine, and when the friend is imprisoned he hangs himself. "When Bobby was sober enough to realize what he'd done, he could only call Eugene's name over and over, as if that would somehow bring him back. A few weeks later, Bobby hung himself with a bed-sheet." This kind of theme is apparent in many stories about Indians-- regrets are drowned with alcohol or substance abuse. This kind of behavior makes more regret and anger, leading to depression and often suicide.
Avis Little Wind, a fourteen- year- old girl on the Spirit Lake Nation reservation, lost both her sister and father to suicide. She lay in bed for ninety days, in a deep depression. It was only after three months of this that she too, hung herself from a tree by their house. For ninety days, her school and her friends did nothing. She was hopeless and had no one offering her a better option than to kill herself."'We’re not really open to conversation about suicide,'Owens said. 'It’s kind of like a private matter, a sensitive topic. If a suicide happens, you’re there for the family. Then after that, it’s kind of just, like, left alone.'" This quote from a Washington Post interview with a reservation teenager, Tyler Owens, explains why suicide is never brought up-- it's considered disrespectful. (

This explanation for the lack of mental health services on reservations represents many Indian's views on the topic. However, this is slowly changing. The United States Department of Justice recently created a national task force designed to stop and prevent the abuse of American Indian and Alaska Native children. In his public address, Attorney General Eric Howard expressed his feelings toward the issue,"We will not accept the shameful fact that American Indians are disproportionately likely to become victims of crime and violence."--

Support within the community is imperative triumph over suicide. In an interview with the program coordinator for Native Survivors, she explained the importance of these tight- knit communities, "'Because of us,' Bell-Joe said quietly in a room ringing with the sounds of song, the beat of drums, the voices of young men. There were some suicide attempts, but none were completed. 'These kids are inspired and encouraged, and even if they make a mistake, they are not discouraged.'" This shows that no matter how much Nationwide effort is put into this cause, local groups will always have the most impact on them. (


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