The issue to be addressed in the Preserving Life: Nevada Tribal Youth Suicide Prevention Initiative is to address suicide among Nevada’s native youth. The project is designed to provide education, awareness of suicide risk indicators among community members, identification of community resources and, where none exists, assistance in the development of these resources, and finally to implement prevention programs that are culturally appropriate and relevant.
Nevada’s native youths live in a bi-cultural world: Indian and non-Indian, with all the distractions that face all youths of the targeted age population. In the recent Youth Summit held the University of Nevada – Reno in August 2009, it became apparent that youths want more than statistics, data, and education: they want meaning and knowing who they are, their history and worth in their existence. They were interested in the world around them and wanted to know that they are not alone.
It is the purpose of this project to explore and identify unique and innovative approaches to addressing this serious problem. The challenge is to develop and implement a unique approach that can be utilized by other communities to provide that “meaning” so desperately sought by youths. In order to accomplish this, the project must evolve and meet these challenges which might not have been foreseen at the beginning of the project – or when it was originally envisioned. While not discarding the traditional methodology envisioned by the project, the other part of the equation (the “so what?” aspect) must be equally prioritized.
It has always been the premise of this project that not all communities are equally ready: facilities, staff, programs, and knowledge levels differ from community to community and it is in this realm, that custom made approaches be explored, assessed, and implemented. As communities are assessed and status determined, some will require beginning levels of education and awareness programs, while others are more advanced and will require a multitude of approaches. Times change, events change the environmental reality, people and communities change, and facts once considered impenetrable become more porous. This is the underlying philosophical construct upon which this project must be placed. We must find the “so what?” part of the equation and make the necessary changes and adaptations to ensure that the approaches we champion reduce life-ending events among Nevada’s tribal youth.