According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, teen suicide is the third-leading cause of death for young people ages 15 to 24. Tragically, this statistic has proven to be far worse on many Native American reservations throughout North America. Reports founded by Mission Network News have even stated that suicide rates on reservations are 10 times the national average.
Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, the second largest reservation in the nation, is considered home to nearly 29,000 Lakota Sioux Tribe members. Nearly 50% of the population in Pine Ridge are children ages 17 and younger. In a recent Huffington Post article, it was found that nearly 1,000 suicide attempts were recorded on Pine Ridge Reservation between 2004 and 2013. Greg Yoder, reporter for MNN, stated that tribal officials confirmed nine teens were successful in committing suicide this past year, one being as young as 12 years old.
So what is causing this increase in teen suicide in Pine Ridge? Yvonne DeCory, a suicide-prevention outreach worker on Pine Ridge Reservation, explains Lakota Sioux teenagers are turning to suicide to escape the reality of life on the reservation.
“Look around…The economic structure at Pine Ridge isn’t sufficient enough to support the population.”
A number of teenagers on Pine Ridge Reservation are faced with unbearable living conditions and unstable family structures which can sadly result in psychological implications, leading them to take drastic measures such as suicide. While mental health services in the U.S. have proven to help teenagers with suicidal thoughts, there are very few available on Pine Ridge Reservation. With only six mental health professionals on the entire Reservation (as noted in a recent New York Times article) it is obvious that there is a strong need for mental health services on Pine Ridge.
What was once seen as a problem on Pine Ridge Reservation has now become an epidemic. With much to be done in Pine Ridge, it’s people like YOU who can help make the difference between life and death for Lakota Sioux teens. Join True Sioux Hope Foundation in raising awareness of the conditions in Pine Ridge and help create new opportunities to make an impactful change for a brighter future.