September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

September is the start of many things: a new school year, football season, the official kick-off of fall. And with this new season comes an important focus for the month of September: Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.

This issue is particularly profound to Native Americans who have seen an increase of youth suicides on reservations in recent years. The Indian Health Service (IHS) reports suicide rates for Native American youth aged 15 to 24 are more than 3 times than the national average. The National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) shares, “Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people and is often the result of mental health conditions that affect people when they are most vulnerable.”

9.13.16 Suicide Prevention Awareness Month - TedxRapid CityWhile a number of insightful and helpful resources are available through IHS and NAMI, we are also encouraged by the work being done within local communities themselves. Last month, Taylor Schad, a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, spoke at TEDxRapidCity, where she described death and suicide as “somehow normal in her high school experience,” and shared meaningful discussion on the benefits of peer-to-peer mentoring and its impact on suicide prevention.

Taylor was involved in Cobbler 2 Cobbler peer mentoring program. (The Cobbler is the mascot of Central High School, which Taylor attended.) This peer program showed students they had the capacity and potential to be as strong, resilient and durable as a mountain. Throughout the TEDx talk, Taylor describes how peer mentoring helped cut down the forest of trees that blocked the views of the mountains the students could become.

PWNA applauds the sincere and vital work of our reservation partners who are addressing suicide prevention and awareness. And we encourage you to view Taylor’s TEDx talk, and to consider how you can help those in your life who might be struggling with suicidal thoughts. Taylor and her classmates knew something had to be done, took action, and saved lives.

If you are having suicidal thoughts, or think a loved one or someone you know may be at risk, check out the Suicide Prevention Resource Center or call 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) for more information.

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