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Navajo VP Addresses Suicide on Native Nations

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Navajo Times
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Navajo Nation Vice President Jonathan Nez is addressing the rising suicide rate in Indian Country. As Arizona Public Radio’s Justin Regan reports, as part of the effort, he’s making a call for the preservation of the Navajo language. 

Vice President Nez says the decline in Navajo speakers has led to a gap between elders and the youth. 

"Because now you have younger generations that do not understand the Navajo language, that do not read or write or speak the language. And maybe our young people are losing hope. Maybe there’s a sense of loss in cultural identity," said Nez.

Nez is spearheading the creation of a workgroup to address Native American suicide prevention to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

"I also understand that in native cultures, you don’t necessarily like to bring up suicide or death, especially in Navajo. But we definitely have to have this discussion in Indian Country," said Nez.

The Washington Post reports the suicide rate for Native American youth is 3 times the national average and up to 10 times higher on some reservations. Other factors that influence the Native American suicide rate are poverty, substance abuse and domestic violence. 

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