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Suicide Prevention Grant To Incorporate Native Culture

SD Department of Health

A suicide prevention grant is targeting Native Communities in the Black Hills. The Garrett Lee Smith grant awards more than three million dollars over five years. Recipients plan to work against suicides in Native youth by training local police departments, schools and healthcare facilities. 


The Great Plains Tribal Chairmen's Health Board is focusing prevention tactics for Native youth between ten and 24 years old. Charles Sitting Bull is the Director of Behavioral Health. He says as a population, Native youth are at high risk for suicide. 


“Everyone knows that our Native people are way over represented in their programs weather children and family services, whether it’s child welfare, whether it’s mental health, whether it’s a psych unit. Just across the board.” 


The South Dakota Department of Health Reports that the majority of suicides occur in the Black Hills and surrounding counties. The suicide rate for Native Americans is 2.4 times higher than non-Natives, and Native men 24 years and younger are most at risk. 


Sitting Bull says the grant is being used to provide prevention training to staff at organizations that work with a lot of Native youth. 


“These are the Rapid City School District, this is the police department, this is Front Porch Coalition and this is recovery and substance abuse. So you’re looking at not only programs here but other national programs that are involved as contractors.” 


He says staff at these organizations can help ensure at-risk youth are using follow-up services to check in on their mental health--and that’s a crucial part of recovery.  


“These follow up services, these interventions will help reduce the suicide.” 


Sitting Bull hopes to see training specified for Native culture added to the curriculum. The program is still in the beginning phases. Training services are being offered after the budget is determined.