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Soc Sci Med. 2001 Nov;53(9):1115-24.

Cluster and regional influences on suicide in a Southwestern American Indian tribe.

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  • 1Faculty of Social and Behavioral Sciences, School of Hygiene and Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA.


Suicide is the second leading cause of death among American Indian youth. Elevated rates of suicide in Indian communities have been attributed both to outbreaks and to regional trends. We assessed the contribution of these two factors for a single tribe, and attempted to define a profile of individuals at risk. Data came from the tribe's registry of suicide attempts and completions for 1990-1993 and analysis of death certificates for the period 1985-1996. Using combined tribal and death certificate data, the average annual (age-adjusted) rate of completed suicide among tribal members was 44.7/100,000 for 1990-1993. Within the 45 suicide deaths and serious attempts in this time period, we identified one grouping of seven cases taking place in a 40-day period. All seven involved hanging and youth (13-28 years old). Using death certificate data alone, the average annual rate of suicide death for non-natives in the surrounding county in the period 1985-1996 was 22.7/100,000. Age-adjusted to the county population, the tribal rate for the same period was not significantly different (24.6/100,000). Tribal and county suicide patterns differed by age distribution and method but not by gender. We concluded that both regional trends and clustering contribute to suicide in this community. Further prevention efforts may need to focus on both unique tribal characteristics and shared factors among non-native neighbors.

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