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Public Health Rep. 1989 Nov-Dec;104(6):609-14.

Risk factors for suicide among Indian adolescents at a boarding school.

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National Center for American Indian and Alaska Native Mental Health Research, Denver, CO 80262.


Suicide rates among American Indians, especially adolescents, are higher than those for the general population. This paper summarizes the relevant literature on prevalence of, and risk factors for, suicide among American Indian groups, with a strong emphasis on adolescents. Data concerning risk of suicide for a sample of high school students attending an Indian boarding school are presented. Approximately 23 percent of these students had attempted suicide at some time in the past, and 33 percent reported suicidal ideation within the past month. Students at greatest risk for suicide include those who reported having either family or friends who had attempted suicide and those who reported on standardized psychological measures as having experienced greater depressive symptomatology, greater quantity and frequency of alcohol use, or little family support. In a 1988 survey of community-based programs for Indian adolescents, 194 were identified as carrying out significant suicide prevention activities. Forty-one of those programs were school-based; they emphasized early identification of students' mental health problems and reduction of specific risk factors such as substance abuse.

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