Native Americans

The term American Indian/Alaska Natives (AI/AN) encompasses many ethnic and cultural groups, tribes and traditions. North Dakota has a rich culture of American Indian traditions and cultures. Unless other otherwise noted, the statistics mentioned on this page are national statistics and not specific to North Dakota. It is important to note that suicide rates vary among the tribes.

The reasons why suicide rates are high among the AI/AN population, and especially in the youth, are multi-faceted and complex. In particular, AI/AN individuals tend to have more serious mental health disorders which are related to suicide including anxiety, substance use and depression. In 2004-2008 data, the suicide rate for AI/AN was 14.68 per 100,000, which was higher than the overall U.S. rate of 11.15 per 100,000. AI/AN males ages 20 to 24 had the highest rate of suicide in the United States across all racial/ethnic/ages, which was 47.47 per 100,000. Suicide is ranked as the second leading cause of death in ages 10 to 34. Suicide is ranked as the eighth leading cause of death for AI/AN of all ages.

Adolescents tend to be at a higher risk for suicide than adults. There is a wide variance of suicide attempt rates that are reported across the United States, but adolescents consistently come in higher than adults. Completed suicides also are typically seen at a higher rate in the AI/AN youth. In 2007 in youth ages 15 to 24, the completed suicide rate in AI/AN youth was 20.04 per 100,000 compared to 6.85 per 100,000 for youth overall.

There are very few evidence-based programs that are adapted for American Indian and Alaska Native cultures. This is important to note as we say that mental disorders are a risk factor for suicide and are highly treatable with effective treatment. Not all treatments are effective when crossing the cultural barriers. Ideal treatment will be evidence-based and culturally-appropriate within the American Indian population.

Strengths or protective factors

There are several protective factors that seem to translate across all racial boundaries:

There also are several protective factors that are specific to the AI/AN culture:

Risk Factors

There are several risk factors that affect all people no matter race or ethnicity:

There are several risk factors that seem to occur more often in the AI/AN cultures:

Information adapted from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the Suicide Prevention Resource Center.