When individuals enter the field of healthcare, they are driven by a passion to assist others in achieving their best state of wellness. No matter their respective professional backgrounds, all health providers recognize the value of strong screening and assessments. We spend time and effort in screening to ensure that quality care can be delivered. Ideally, care that is both person-centered and that results in individualized treatment planning that meets the needs of the unique patient.
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Each September 10, the International Association for Suicide Prevention sponsors World Suicide Prevention Day. Here in the United States, overall suicide rates have increased significantly since 1999 in almost every state, but suicide affects some groups far more than others. As we observe World Suicide Prevention Day, I’d like to call attention to the effect suicide has on tribal communities.
American Indian and Alaska Native youth ages 15-24 die by suicide at a rate four times the overall rate for this age group. Alarmingly, these suicides often occur in clusters—multiple suicides within a social group or small community in a short time.
It is one thing to hear in the abstract that America suffers from a stubbornly high rate of suicide and suicide attempts. But when it hits home—as it did for me years ago when a young neighbor, struggling with serious mental illness, died from suicide—we realize we have to ask some tough questions.
The United States had seen decades of continually declining mortality rates, as advances in health care and safety have allowed us to live longer. This century, however, mortality rates among certain demographic and socioeconomic groups have increased. A recent study attributes this uptick to what the authors call “deaths of despair,” which are drug and alcohol overdoses, liver disease associated with chronic alcohol use, and suicide. To save lives, we must replace the consequences of despair with the promises of hope – health, knowledge, prevention, and effective treatment.
As Native American Heritage month comes to a close, I’ve been reflecting on the tremendous work American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) tribes have done to improve the quality of life for tribal youth, families, and communities.All people have biological and psychological characteristics that make them vulnerable to, or resilient in the face of, potential behavioral health issues. Effective prevention strategies focus on identifying these characteristics, reducing the risk factors, and strengthening protective factors.