Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Protecting Life in Indian Country

As the Action Alliance carries out its important work of advancing our National Strategy for Suicide Prevention, I believe that we can make a significant difference in the lives of many. For American Indian and Alaska Native communities, this assistance is especially needed.

Bringing awareness to this issue is of utmost importance and for this reason the Indian Health Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Indian Education, and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration recently hosted two Action Summits for Suicide Prevention.  The first Summit was held August 2011, in Scottsdale, Arizona and the second Summit was held October 2011 in Anchorage, Alaska.

Yvette Roubideaux, MD, MPH

Indian Health Service
United States Department of Health & Human Services
National Action Alliance Executive Committee Member
The Summits brought together nationally recognized speakers, behavioral health providers, tribal leaders, health care providers, law enforcement, first responders, school personnel, and many others. In total, more than 1,000 people attended. During this time, we worked to develop and strengthen new and existing collaborations, gather information on best and promising practices, and collect information on the most up-to-date research on suicide and substance abuse prevention, intervention, and aftercare. Most importantly, the Summits provided an opportunity to share personal experiences in addressing suicide and substance abuse in Indian Country.

In order to bring about real change, numerous parties need to be involved and dedicated. The Summits focused on the importance of collaboration among tribal, federal, state, and community- and program-level leadership to promote American Indian and Alaska Native behavioral health.  This work will pave the way for new partnerships and help advance the mission of the Action Alliance.

The Action Alliance American Indian and Alaska Native Task Force has a goal. That goal is to implement suicide prevention strategies to reduce the rate of suicide in American Indian and Alaska Native communities. We are working hard to ensure that we reach our goal.

As a member of the Rosebud Sioux tribe, reducing suicide in Indian country is very important to me and I have dedicated my career to improving American Indian health care. I hope that my leadership of the American Indian and Alaska Native Task Force and membership on the Action Alliance’s Executive Committee will advance suicide prevention in our nation and I work every day to do my part in ensuring that this goal is reached.