On Thursday, May 8, 2014, AFSP Vice President of Public Policy John Madigan participated in a panel discussion on Native American Youth Mental Health. The panel was co-hosted by the Congressional Native American Caucus and Center for Native American Youth. Other panelists included Erin Baily, Director, Center for Native American Youth; Teressa Baldwin, Youth Mental Health Advocate and Founder of Hope4Alaska; and Dr. Susan Karol, Chief Medical Officer, Office of the Director, Indian Health Service. Representatives Grace Napolitano, Betty McCollum, and Raul Grijalva were also in attendance.
The panel focused on ways to improve Native American youth mental health including how to prevent suicide. Although suicide rates are extremely high among all segments of the American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) population, youth are most heavily impacted as 40% of all AI/AN suicides occur among those ages 15-24 years old. Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death – and 2.5 times (as high as 11 times the national rate on some reservations) the national rate – for AI/AN youth in the 15-24 age group.
Mr. Madigan gave an overview of some of the policy initiatives currently in Congress that could reduce suicide among Native American youth including the Strengthening Mental Health in Our Communities Act of 2014, the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act of 2013, the Suicide Prevention Research Innovation Act (SPRINT ACT), the Mental Health First Aid Act, and the Native American Suicide Prevention Act.
Additionally Mr. Madigan touted the work of AFSP on the ground in Montana. AFSP Montana has provided survivor work group facilitator and safeTALK trainings to representatives from the Chippewa Cree, Blackfeet, and Crow Tribes.
Native American suicide prevention is one of AFSP’s top public policy priorities and if we can reduce the number of suicides among Native American Youth it will have a major impact on reducing the rate of suicide across the United States. Please click below for additional information about the four panel speakers.