Monday, March 10, 2014

Suicide rates are high among Native American teens, many of whom suffer abuse, live in poverty

Suicide rates among young Native Americans are more than three times the national average and as high as 10 times the national average on some reservations, Sari Horwitz reports for The Washington Post. "A toxic collection of pathologies—poverty, unemployment, domestic violence, sexual assault, alcoholism and drug addiction—has seeped into the lives of young people among the nation’s 566 tribes. Reversing their crushing hopelessness, Indian experts say, is one of the biggest challenges for these communities." (Post photo by Linda Davidson: Native American teens Richard Stone and Tyler Owens stand near a tree where a teen, then her father, hung themselves) 

But it isn't easy. “One-quarter of Indian children live in poverty, versus 13 percent in the United States. They graduate high school at a rate 17 percent lower than the national average," Theresa M. Pouley, the chief judge of the Tulalip Tribal Court in Washington state and a member of the Indian Law and Order Commission, told Horwitz. "Their substance-abuse rates are higher. They’re twice as likely as any other race to die before the age of 24. They have a 2.3 percent higher rate of exposure to trauma. They have two times the rate of abuse and neglect. Their experience with post-traumatic stress disorder rivals the rates of returning veterans from Afghanistan.”

The high suicide rates have led the Department of Justice to create a national task force "to examine the violence and its impact on American Indian and Alaska Native children, part of an effort to reduce the number of Native American youth in the criminal justice system," Horwitz writes. The task force is expected to offer its final recommendations to Attorney General Eric Holder in the fall. (Read more)

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