CDC: Suicide rate worsening among American Indian and Alaska Native populations

Published: Thursday, October 6, 2022 - 9:51am
Updated: Wednesday, October 12, 2022 - 4:24pm
Audio icon Download mp3 (1.44 MB)

In 2018, an 18-state study showed how suicide unduly affects American Indian or Alaska Native populations.

More recently, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study of 49 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia found the trend is worsening.

The research draws from the National Violent Death Reporting System, a state-based dataset of death certificates, coroner or medical examiner reports, and law enforcement reports on violent deaths, including suicides.

Non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Native suicide rates rose nearly 20% from 2015 to 2020, compared to less than 1% in the U.S. overall. That increase brought the rate from 20.0 per 100,000 to 23.9. By comparison, the suicide rate for the overall U.S. population rose from 13.3 to 13.5 during the same period.

Suicides also trended younger among the American Indian/Alaska Native population than other groups: Three-quarters occurred among people younger than 45, and the highest rates occurred among 25- to 44-year-olds. Among non-American Indian/Alaska Native populations, the highest rates of death by suicide occur among 45– to 64-year-olds.

Consistent with the 2018 study, American Indian/Alaska Native decedents were more likely to have relationship and alcohol problems, but less likely to have any known mental health condition or history of mental health or substance use treatment. More research is needed to determine if that discrepancy is due to a lack of mental health services in rural areas.

To help arrest the troubling trend, the authors call for culturally relevant, comprehensive public health approaches to suicide prevention. They add that any such efforts must take into account current inequities and historical trauma.

Such strategies might include strengthening access to culturally relevant care, including offering telehealth visits to address mental health concerns and well-being.

Recommendations also include training and hiring more American Indian/Alaska Native providers, promoting community engagement and cultural traditions, and providing more programs that reduce risk and promote healing after a suicide death.

American Indian/Alaska Native decedents were more likely to have gone through crises involving the recent suicide of friends or family members.

If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, there is help. Contact the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline by calling or texting 988 (en Español, llame al 988, prensa 2; for Deaf and Hard of Hearing, dial 711 then 988). You may also contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.

Fronteras Science