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US Senate Bill Aims To Reduce Native American Suicide Rates

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AP Photo/Rick Scuteri
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Native American communities throughout the U-S have the highest suicide rates of any ethnic group. A bipartisan bill introduced in the U.S. Senate aims to combat the growing numbers. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports.

The Native American Suicide Prevention Act would force states that receive federal grants for suicide prevention to also work with tribes in developing programs. States would have to include each federally recognized tribe within their borders, and provide training for mental health workers.

"It’s clear that this is an underserved population that has unique needs when it comes to education for mental health providers, but also education for community members for recognizing the signs of depression and the risk of suicide," says Arizona Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema who's a co-sponsor of the legislation.

According to the National Indian Council on Aging, suicide is the second-leading cause of death among native Americans between the ages of 10 and 34. Indigenous youth have rates two-and-a-half times the national average. The Council says historical trauma suffered by Native Americans has led to poorer health and fewer socioeconomic opportunities.

The Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides free, confidential support 24/7 for those in distress at (800) 273-TALK (8255).

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Ryan joined KNAU's newsroom in 2013. He covers a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a frequent contributor to NPR.
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