Native American suicide rates 2.7 times higher in South Dakota

Pine Ridge Reservation declares a state of emergency
Published: Aug. 28, 2020 at 6:47 PM MDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - Oglala Sioux Tribe President Julian Bear Runner declared a state of emergency for the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation on Aug. 24, as the reservation saw suicides and suicide threats on the rise.

Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Health Board says data collected from 2009 to 2018 shows that Native American suicide rates are 2.7 times higher than white race rates in South Dakota.

The declaration from Oglala Sioux Tribe points out that there have been 177 suicide attempts since January 2020, and there have been nine suicides reported so far, and they are between the ages of 14 and 32.

“There has been a lot more stress with COVID and the isolation that comes with COVID social distancing, and I believe that led to a lot more struggles with behavioral health,” Tosa Two Heart, the community behavioral health director for Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Health Board (GPTCHB) says.

And GPTCHB has several initiatives and programs to reduce the rate of suicide for Native Americans online, on the phone and in the community.

“So Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Health Board and the Oyate Health Center are currently doing a September suicide prevention awareness campaign,” Two Heart says. She also wants to remind people that: “When you see someone in crisis, do what you would do if someone suffered a serious injury,” she says, because a life could also be in danger even if they are not physically hurt.

Two Heart also says anyone can help prevent suicide by sharing these resources and help others get connected.

For more information, Two Heart encourages people to follow Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Health Board on their Facebook page.

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