A heartbreaking statistic in the US is that Native Americans are 70 percent more likely to die by suicide than the general population. Almost 1 in 4 youth in our communities have attempted suicide. Called a “silent epidemic”, a group of tribal youth recently created video, comic books and music to begin to give voice to this issue.
In an anti-suicide/healthy living workshop presented by the Portland Area Indian Health Board, 60 students from different tribes throughout the Northwest spent a week in Portland and had access to a video camera, drawing paper, notebooks and music producer.
“I know from personal experience living in a Native American community and being around people, depression is really common because for a lot of people it’s hard to find your way to your culture or find your way to a certain passion when you don’t who you are and you’re confused,” Sarah Hull [from Siletz Tribe] says.
Sarah’s mother says there’ve been times she, the mother, could feel “danger in the air.” The family has found an antidote in music.
Hull says she lay awake at night trying to find the right words for a song on the unusual theme of suicide prevention.
Suicide prevention coordinator Colbie Caughlan says the staff wanted help crafting health promotion messages that resonate with young people.
“Youth learn from youth,” Caughlan says. “That’s what has happened forever.”
It’s true – youth are the mostly likely to make a difference in their communities and what a remarkable program to provide tools and assistance for them to express themselves, share their experiences and break the barriers of secrecy.
Reportedly this project will feed into a media campaign called WeAreNative.org, coming later this year.
Listen to the song Sarah wrote, as well as work by other youth at the workshop, in the inspiring radio documentary on npr.org.
Sarah’s voice is incredible. Here she is singing “The Art of Flying”: