Chelsey Luger and Gyasi Ross: A conversation about suicide

Native American Suicides per 100,000, Ages 0-19, IHS Areas, 1989-1998. Image from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Chelsey Luger and Gyasi Ross want Indian Country to talk about suicide:
Silence kills.

Suicide is a HUGE problem within our Native communities, yet it’s something that we barely speak about. I put myself in this category as well—even though we’ve had several people within my family commit suicide, my family has never gotten together specifically to talk about either 1) why these suicides keep happening, or 2) how we can prevent further suicides from happening in the future. While sexy political topics dominate headlines, this life and death issue that affects the heart of Indian Country—our homelands—hardly ever gets any press. We haven’t yet collectively tackled this crucial question, “Why do we do this to ourselves?”

We are not having these necessary conversations.

Now, don’t get me wrong—there are Native people and organizations who do absolutely amazing things to shed light on suicide as a priority and to remember those Natives whose lives were tragically cut short by suicide. Absolutely. Thank goodness we have those folks and organizations memorializing and acknowledging that it’s going on within our communities at alarming rates; those good folks try to push the topic. Yet, most of the time the rest of us don’t acknowledge the constant presence of suicide within our communities until after the fact. Perhaps it’s a funding issue. Perhaps it’s a priority issue. In either event, we simply are not proactively having intentional and awkward conversations about suicide—we avoid those; those painful and weird conversations with our 5 or 6 or 7 or 12 year old sons, daughters, nieces and nephews, or even our older siblings ... until something goes terribly wrong.

Those conversations suck—like talking to our 12 year old sons or daughters or nieces and nephews about sex. But we gotta have them. 12 year olds DO get pregnant.

Get the Story:
Chelsey Luger and Gyasi Ross: Suicide Chronicles, Part 1 of 5: A Conversation Native People Need to Have (Indian Country Today 9/18)

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