A subject that no one ever wants to talk about is suicide. This is because it is the probably the most unthinkable act a person can commit. The topic becomes even more sheltered when one includes American Indians in the mix. It is almost as though one would rather cover it up then try to publicize and acknowlege some issues that come with reservation life. The rate at which American Indian teens on reservations is twice as high as any other teen demographic in the United States. Yet, how often do we hear this? For me, this is the first time. It is hard to comprehend someone my age or younger taking their life. We have hardly lived at all and even if negative circumstances have enshrouded you for most of your young life, there is still much life to be lived. What is even more difficult to fathom is the reasons for commiting suicide. According to the Huffington Post, “most are kids who do not have drug or alcohol problems… most come from financially sound financial situations, by Native American standards.” The last couple days in class we have covered the stereotypes that many American Indians face almost everyday: the drunken Indian, the “casino-rich Indian.” However, when one sets the stage for a stereotype, they are maintaining a prejudice toward the older population… Not that any stereotype is warranted. But, when I think of kids my own age, I know that even for people who do not grow up on reservations, life is tough sometimes. There are the peer pressures from the society, conforming to certain social groups, and most importantly, trying to mature and create your own identity for yourself. These kids though, because we have slowly but surely been trying to strip away culture, traditions, and spiritual beliefs for the last couple hundred years, they have no basis for how to form an identity. In a teen’s eyes, life without identity is life without worth.
There are things that we can do though. Obviously, we want to become empathetic of this problem, but American Indian’s do not need our empathy. They are a proud and independent culture and if we can learn anything it has been our “help” over the years which has led to this growing problem. No, what we need is to become educated about this problem. Awareness needs to be spread, not only for American Indians, but the teen demographic as a whole. The Mescalero Apache reservation has created a suicide prevention youth program and so far in response there have been no suicides on that reservation since it has been put in place. But, problems still abound, such as the Pine Ridge Oglala Lakota Sioux reservation which has a suicide rate three times the national average. What is taking place on the Apache reservation can be installed in South Dakota and hopefully soon. Teen suicide has always been a problem, but it does not always have to be. If we all become more aware and educated on the issues that persist around us, one day soon we could drastically decrease the number of suicide of American Indian teens and teens across the nation as a whole.
Courtesy to The Huffington Post and Jay Tavare