The US suicide rate is up 33% since 1999, but for Native American women and men, the increase is even greater: 139% and 71%, respectively, according to an analysis out this week from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics.
Suicide disproportionately affects non-Hispanic American Indian and Alaska Natives, according to the CDC. A 2018 CDC report found their suicide rate was more than 3.5 times higher than those among racial and ethnic groups with the lowest rates.
Experts who study Native American suicide blame higher rates of poverty, substance abuse and unemployment as well as geographical isolation, which can make it difficult for people to access mental health care.
Also, American Indian and Alaska Native women experience higher levels of violence than other US women. Nearly 84% experience violence in their lifetime, according to a 2016 report from the National Institute of Justice. This includes 56% who have experienced sexual violence and roughly the same percentage who have experienced physical violence by an intimate partner. Research shows more than a third of women who have been raped have contemplated suicide, and 13% have attempted, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.
Native Americans and Alaska Natives also experience PTSD more than twice as often as the general population, according to SAMHSA.
“You get this historical trauma, and people aren’t able to resolve it. It gets internalized and passed down to future generations,” said Karen Hearod, a member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and regional administrator at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
Read more on USAToday.com.