Suicide is a serious issue affecting our communities. Suicide rates among Native Americans is higher than any other ethnic group in the U.S.
And suicide is especially affecting our youth. It’s the second leading cause of death.1
As a parent or caregiver, what can you do to make sure your kids are mentally healthy? Here are six ways to make them feel supported and empowered to live a stronger, mentally healthy life.
- Create a safe and supportive environment: First thing’s first. Foster an environment where kids feel comfortable opening up. Have frequent conversations. Listen to them. Don’t be judgmental. Validate their emotions. As you do, they’ll start to share their thoughts and feelings.
- Ask open-ended questions: Try not to ask yes/no questions. (“Did you have a good day at school?”) Ask questions that elicit thoughtful responses. (“What’s been on your mind lately?”) And don’t always ask the same thing. (“How was school?”) Be creative. (“If you could start today over, what would you do differently?”)
- Address historical trauma: Don’t shy away from conversations about intergenerational trauma. When we address and respond to historical trauma, we can promote healing and prevent suicide.
- Help build resilience: Tough times are going to happen to kids. The stronger youth are on the inside, the better they can weather those storms when they come. Building resiliency is a skill you can help instill to boost young people’s inner strength.
- Watch for changes in behavior: You MUST watch for the warning signs of suicide and act immediately. Some warning signs may be:
- Withdrawing from friends
- Saying goodbye
- Giving away important items
- Making a will
- Taking dangerous risks such as driving extremely fast
- Displaying extreme mood swings
- Eating or sleeping more or less
- Using drugs or alcohol more often
- Provide resources: Connect your kids with mental health counselors or support groups. Your community may also have cultural resources to help improve young people’s mental health. Present a range of options and encourage your kids to seek help when needed.
Parents, caregivers, community members—we can take steps to prevent suicide by checking in with our kids and making sure they are mentally healthy.
1 Unintentional injuries, such as auto accidents, is the leading cause of death among non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaskan Native youth.