Lakota Country Times: Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe tackles suicide

We R Native launched the #weneedyouhere campaign to prevent youth suicide. Photo from We R Native / Facebook

Cheyenne River tells their children #weneedyouhere
By Brandon Ecoffey
Lakota Country Times Editor
www.lakotacountrytimes.com

EAGLE BUTTE—The residents of the Cheyenne River Reservation are tired of their children leaving this world too early. To make these children understand that they are wanted and loved the community a new campaign has been undertaken to let them know that they are needed here and now.

Like many reservation communities across Indian Country, the Cheyenne River Reservation has lost far too many of their youth the horrors of suicide. Although the epidemic of youth suicide continues to rage across the norther plains, national media attention and responses from the federal government have now become sporadic. To meet the demand for suicide prevention programming tribal communities are now beginning to employ innovative new approaches in the battle against suicide.

As part of an effort by community members and the Cheyenne River Tribal Health Program the residents of the Cheyenne-Eagle Butte community are making it a point to tell their children, “We need you here."

“It’s a community initiative to let our young people know they are important by connecting them to others on our rez in the fight against suicide,” said Alissa Benoist, Suicide Intervention Specialist with the Cheyenne River.

As part of the effort community members are invited in to the schools on the reservation to create collages with the positive messages for children that include the hashtag #weneedyouhere. These collages are then kept in the school to help children who may be struggling to remember that there are people in their community who care about them and lover them.

“We need to start somewhere and to let out young people know that we care is a good place. If it changes one person's day by reading them -then it's worth it.” said Benoist. "I believe it had to be a community effort as whole if we were going to have the impact we desired.”

In addition to leaving the collages in the schools, students are also being provided with information on suicide prevention and information on places where young people can reach out to if they come across situations involving suicide.


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Benoist says that over 200 community members have volunteered messages of support for the children and that both tribal and public schools across the reservation have come together to welcome the efforts in their schools.

“When we first get set up people are somewhat hesitate, but once it's explained and they see the youth looking at the messages right away they are more open and some make multiple signs. It;s really a win for all involved,” she added.

Benoist has been working primarily with the development of several sports programs on Cheyenne River but a new job has brought her efforts to improve the community to a new front.

“I took a new role in suicide intervention. I was tired of seeing our young people hurting and leaving. So figured I needed to do whatever I could to help keep our young people with us,” she said.

(Contact Brandon Ecoffey at editor@lakotacountrytimes.com)

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