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July/August 2009Vol. 10, No. 6Suicide Prevention Among Tribal Youth

Studies show higher suicide rates and attempted suicides among Native American youth compared to the general population. To better prepare Tribal child welfare workers to prevent and respond to suicidal behavior among the youth they serve, the National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA) recently released a new resource, Ensuring the Seventh Generation: A Youth Suicide Prevention Toolkit for Tribal Child Welfare Programs.

The toolkit includes information on warning signs for suicidal behavior, risk and protective factors, and prevention and intervention methods in the context of working with Tribal communities. Some strategies for child welfare workers to consider when working with youth at risk for suicide are:

  • Partner with parents and caregivers to gain valuable insight into a child's suicidal behavior and mental health history.
  • Prepare foster parents and other care providers by informing them of the risks of suicide and referring them to community resources for support.
  • Mobilize family and community support networks around youth at risk for suicide.
  • Understand the cultural protocol for talking about suicide and connect families to faith-based and spiritual leaders for additional guidance.
  • Encourage youth to participate in cultural and community activities; studies show youth with a strong cultural identity are less likely to commit suicide.

The toolkit also encourages child welfare agencies to create a suicide crisis response team by assigning a designated response lead and establishing collaborative protocols with other service providers, such as law enforcement, mental health professionals, and school personnel.

Download the toolkit on the NICWA website: (3,040 KB)