CALIFORNIA: Relying on Each Other: Yurok Tribe Responds to Youth Suicide Crisis

June 24, 2016
News Type:  Weekly Spark, Weekly Spark News
State:  California

Lost Coast Outpost

A community of about 150 members of the Yurok Tribe in a remote part of California have declared a state of emergency in response to the suicide rate among its young people. Over a period of 18 months, the Weitchpec community lost seven tribe members between the ages of 16 and 32, prompting the Yurok Tribal Council to call on “all federal, state, local, and tribal emergency management agencies to coordinate an immediate response,” citing contributing factors such as “geographic isolation, substance abuse, scarce job opportunities, and the general lack of positive activities for young people.” Federal and state agencies have since provided Weitchpec with funding for behavioral health services such as suicide prevention training, addiction counseling, peer support groups, and parenting classes. Tribe members have also been working to mobilize support for suicide prevention from within the community, organizing a walk for suicide awareness, first responder instruction, and Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Trainings (ASIST). The tribe’s human resources director, Rose Sylvia said, “[T]he community has stepped up and said, ‘We want a change. We want something different for our children.’ ”

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Populations:  Young Adults Ages 18 to 25 Years, Adolescents, American Indians and Alaska Natives
Strategies:  Respond to Crisis