Published On: Thu, May 9th, 2013

Suicide rates increase among middle-aged American Indians

By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.

ONE FEATHER STAFF

 

Suicides are on the rise for middle-aged American Indians according to the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report released on Thursday, May 2.  The report states that middle-aged (35-64 years) American Indians/Alaska Natives have the highest increase (65 percent) of suicide rates among all other racial groups for the period 1999-2010.   The rate increased 28 percent across all groups.

“Suicide is a tragedy that is far too common,” said CDC director Tom Friedan, MD, MPH.  “The stories we hear of those who are impacted by suicide are very difficult.”

The suicide rate for American Indians increased from 11.2 per 100,000 population to 18.5.  Whites still have the highest overall rate, but only showed a 40 percent increase from 15.9 to 22.3.

The CDC states several possible reasons including the current economic situation in the United States and “a rise in intentional overdoses associated with the increase in availability of prescription opioids”.

According to the report, in 1999 there were a total of 90 suicides report of middle-aged American Indians.  That figure rose to 171 in 2010.  The total number of white suicides rose from 12,536 to 18,848.

The method of suicide has changed some with firearm being the top in 1999 with 7,634 followed by poisoning 3,202 and suffocation 2,412.  In 2010, firearm was still tops with 10,393, but suffocation increased by 81.3 percent to 4,934.

Linda C. Degutis, Dr.PH, MSN, director of CDC’s National Center for Inquiry Prevention and Control, said in a statement following the release of the report, “The findings in this report suggest it is important for suicide prevention strategies to address the types of stressors that middle-aged Americans might be facing and that can contribute to suicide risk.”

Katie Ross, Cherokee Indian Hospital, wrote in an article appearing in the One Feather in January, “Between 2006 and 2009, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians lost nine people to suicide, and many more have attempted or considered attempting suicide.  But, there is hope.  According to the National Institutes of Mental Health, 90 percent of suicides are linked to mental illness.”

Ross said the Hospital is working together with Analenisgi and other community health programs in implementing Indian Health Service’s Methamphetamine and Suicide Prevention Initiative (MSPI).  “They are focusing on various evidence-based methods of reducing the risk of suicide and the related problems of substance-abuse and substance-use related deaths.”

Dr. Michael Toedt, executive director of Clinical Services at Cherokee Indian Hospital, noted, “The Suicide Prevention Initiative has been an exciting opportunity for Cherokee Indian Hospital to partner with Analenisgi and other tribal and community programs in improving services and promoting a message of hope.  We are already seeing improvements in care coordination and access to needed services.”

Info and help lines:

  • Call the Mobile Crisis team any time of day or night: 1-888-315-2880
  • Talk to a counselor at Analenisgi 554-6550 or drop by Monday – Friday from 1-4pm
  • National Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK
  • For emergencies, call 911 or take the person to an emergency room or call Cherokee Police Department 554-6600
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