My personal experiences and gratefulness for being allowed to work on this critically important gathering of knowledge, strength and healing, which I wrote last summer.
From 9 June 2022: “The final webinar for the series on Indigenous Suicide Prevention is this Friday, 10 June and as rapporteur for these events and continuing to work on the manuscript of all dialogues, after today rereading a reminder from one of the expert presenters, I burst out crying. I’ve not done so in such an uncontrolled way since I was a child I think.
They said we must remember to look at nature when thinking about anything of our lives. They reminded us that it is the strongest bison who go to stand in front, facing directly into the storm to protect the ones behind, the ones still coming up, growing and learning. They didn’t hesitate, they just did it because it needed doing. In more human terms, they faced the adversity not just because it was their own child or connection, it was to protect any who needed protecting.
In the last year we’ve lived in Germany, I have felt like a failure because I wasn’t able to accomplish some of the things I wanted and hoped to, but we’d been considering moving back to the US because my mother asked for help in caring for my older sister, and my only sibling who is back on the kidney transplant list. My parents are both nearing their 80s, too.
Despite many dark times in my life, I’ve struggled with absolutely debilitating depression in the last year, not just the isolation and loneliness of Covid19 restrictions etc, but the result of years away from family, direct collective cultural or personal connections and meaningfulness, mindfulness and immersion in nature which is how I grew up and was raised.
I had to forge ahead often with little or no support, often with people assuming, rationalizing why they didn’t offer or respond to requests for help, “But they’re strong/seem so strong, I didn’t think they needed help/encouragement!” This makes me think of the suicides considered most shocking or surprising, and this exact attitude and mentality contributed those individual’s last remarks, such as, “I feel so alone, there’s no reason to go on….”
I didn’t accomplish the things others have been assigned or have listed professions like mine did and are assumed/considered successful. things western society considers “success”. I continue to have to deal with venomous gossip, rumors and attacks, with the main ones encouraged by a homo- and transphobic anti-Black bigot who happens to be Native. BUT hopefully on my path, my journey, my presence was able to protect, support or shelter others for a time so that they can continue to grow, learn and become light bearers now and to future generations.
My short synopsis: Many Indigenous communities are in an ongoing epidemic of suicide, not because of lack of ability to exist in the “modern world” as some erroneously believe, which is primitizing Natives, but largely due to the effects of ongoing genocide, colonialism, and racism. While they are battling to save their families, friends, communities, sons, daughter, children, parents, relatives, many of the same issues are found in every community in western society.
While many non-Natives seek “Native spirituality”, most of which is exploitative stereotypes by non-Natives or those not supported by their Indigenous communities… While some dismiss or confine work like this as only to applicable to Indigenous peoples, they are wrong. The information gathering from leading Native and non-Native psychologists and professionals can help ALL individuals and communities heal.
Description: “Indigenous communities experience higher risks for suicide compared to the general U.S. population, with suicide as the second-leading cause of death among Indigenous children and young adults in North America. To reduce this trend, it is essential for prevention and intervention efforts to build on scientific evidence; cultural and local knowledge; and the best community, family, and institutional practices to reduce risk and increase protection.
The Forum on Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders and the Forum for Children’s Well-Being at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine convened a three-part virtual public workshop on April 26, 2022, May 13, 2022, and June 10, 2022, to examine suicide risk and protective factors in Indigenous populations, discuss culturally appropriate and effective suicide prevention policies and programs, explore existing data systems and how data can be used for tracking suicide rates, and consider opportunities for action. This Proceedings highlights presentations and discussions from the workshop.”
Contributor(s): National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; Health and Medicine Division; Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education; Board on Health Care Services; Board on Children, Youth, and Families; Forum on Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders; Forum for Children’s Well-Being; Francis K. Amankwah, D. S. Red Haircrow, and Sharyl J. Nass, Rapporteurs.
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