Prevention saves lives

Courtesy QPR

All across Indian Country, suicide plagues thousands of tribal communities. On the Southern Ute Indian Reservation, the Albuquerque Area Indian Health Board (AAIHB) has focused on implementing their Intergenerational Intertribal (I²) Positive Directions of Native Health.

The I² project aims to prevent and reduce suicidal ideation, impacts of trauma, and substance abuse among American Indian and Alaska Native populations. It also strives to promote mental health and to provide the community with an in-depth explanation of their “Community Readiness Model”.

The AAIHB was originally established in 1980 with the guidance of Indigenous tribal leaders to develop and empower Native Peoples in various initiatives that allowed for targeted action planning and advocacy roles in the Southwest.

Through collaboration with the Southern Ute Health Center and AAIHB, the I² program has held trainings to help the community understand direct and indirect signs of how to talk to individuals who may be having suicidal thoughts.

AAIHB also held a youth mental health first aid training that looked at understanding the onset of mental health illnesses and differentiating that with typical adolescent behaviors.

“To address suicide, we must first talk about it,” AAIHB Coordinator, Beverly Bowman stated during her presentation at the Question. Persuade. Refer. (QPR) suicide prevention training on Friday, August 17 at the SunUte Community Center. Bowman asked participants in the trainings to take care of themselves first and foremost. “Suicidal behavior means that someone is in extreme pain or suffering, and they are trying to figure out a way to cope with what they are dealing with,” Bowman explained, while going over the behavioral and situational clues people exhibit. Some of these behavioral clues include: the giving away prized possessions, creating or changing a will, unwanted separation of loved ones, and sometimes suspicious episodes of out lash. “This is going to be one [training] where you can come in and help an individual,” Bowman stated after explaining the stressors that occur when coping with suicide risks and mental health illnesses.

“In 2016 there were 44,995 individuals who died by suicide, when you calculate that it comes out to mean that every 11.7 minutes suicide takes the life of an individual,” Bowman stated, while giving out facts about suicide in the United States.

“One suicide is one too many,” Bowman said, while speaking to participants in the QPR training. When unaddressed, suicide becomes an increased risk for everyone. “Suicide for American Indians and Alaskan Native youth have the second highest rate of death by suicide [between the ages of 15-24],” Bowman said.

Successful ways to provide suicide prevention start with QPR. “QPR is intended to offer hope, through positive actions. You are there to help the individual get the help they need” QPR instructor with AAIHB, Rachel Tenario states.

The AAIHB is currently in the second year of working with the Southern Ute Indian Tribe to address suicide prevention through a Strategic Action Plan (SAP). The SAP features goals and objectives that were reviewed and approved by key stakeholders in the community.

Ultimately, the project goal is to “strengthen community well-being by increasing the awareness of the importance of having a suicide prevention intervention,” according to the SAP that is available throughout departments and offices in the Southern Ute tribal community.

This goal is intended to be met by increasing suicide awareness through collaboration with local media outlets and hosting events that would showcase awareness information and support positive cultural messages.

The SAP would promote mental health wellness while working to decrease mental health stigmas by providing trainings and collaborating with local health programs to host community awareness meetings.

As September, the National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, comes up, here are some local events and resources to turn to. The Boys and Girls Club (BGC) of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe is working to “Increase communication and conversation about suicide [by] working with youth in the community,” acting BGC President Lindsay Box expresses while talking about the club’s motivation to create a video of support for anyone who may need it. “It’s going to be geared towards youth, but I would like to have everyone involved, everyone from kids to elders,” Box explained. They are opening this project up to the community to help, to show support, and to be in front of the camera.

Celebrating Healthy Communities is a coalition based out of Durango, Colo. that is working with all the schools in Bayfield, Durango, and Ignacio in a slogan contest for suicide awareness. The slogan contest was won by Ignacio High School. “It’s really cool that our community won the contest and that the slogan that will be used is coming from our kids,” Box explained, while speaking about the different events and awareness outlets that will be held during the month of September.

Since 2013, the BGC has had their staff certified in youth mental health first aid and QPR trainings. “It has been kind of a slow process to get community awareness of trainings,” Boys and Girls Club CEO and Strategic Action Plan Advisory Committee Member, Bruce LeClaire stated while discussing the goals and objectives of the club.

“This September is suicide prevention month, but that doesn’t mean that we stop there,” SunUte Community Center Director, Robin Duffy-Wirth said while discussing the events that will be hosted in the community center. “We’re looking at bringing in a dynamic speaker to spread [suicide] awareness, just like we did with drowning prevention through Josh the Otter” Duffy-Wirth believes that “over the years an environment of acceptance, tolerance and friendliness has been created here at SunUte.” SunUte is currently planning to host an N7 Fit Day on Tuesday, September 11 that will be free for all Native American youth.  “Just like we are a place for physical safety, we want to become a place for emotional safety,” Duffy-Wirth stated.

As suicide becomes more present in communities, remember to check in on your peers, neighbors and family. The future of the tribal community lies in everyone’s hands to actively work to decrease suicide through outreach and awareness.




Colorado Statewide Crisis Line: 844-493-8255

New Mexico Statewide Crisis Line: 855-662-7474

Axis Health System Crisis Line: 970-247-5245

National Crisis Line: 1-800-784-2433 (1-800-SUICIDE)

Safe2Tell: 1-877-542-7233 (text or call)

If you are interested in helping with the BGC video, contact Lindsay Box 970-563-0100.

Southern Ute Health Center has mental health and substance use assistance available for any patients eligible to receive services at the health center. Three providers are:

Mary Trujillo Young, Ph.D.

Jennifer GoodTracks, MA

Ryan Sullivan, LPC



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