Since 1999, Indigenous Women Have Faced Highest US Increase in Suicides

    On June 20, the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention published an analysis of 2017 data showing that indigenous people are being hit the hardest by a boom in general suicide rates that has seen them rise to their highest levels since World War Two.

    American Indian and Alaskan Native (AIAN) people face the highest rates of suicide in comparison to people of other racial categories; AIAN men face nearly 34 suicide deaths per 100,000 people, while women see a rate of 11 per 100,000. The rate for AIAN women has risen by 139 percent since 1999, compared with an increase of 71 percent among AIAN men in that period.

    Age-adjusted suicide rates for females, by race and ethnicity: United States, 1999 and 2017

    The US suicides data follows the declaration in Canada last month that failures of social services and medical providers are, in part, fueling the ongoing genocide of indigenous people, with particularly-devastating forms of violence directed at women and girls.

    Between 1997 and 2017, white and AIAN people in the US faced the highest rate of drug-induced overdose suicides, at 1.8 and 1.1 per 100,000, respectively. But AIAN people saw by far the highest rates of alcohol-induced overdose suicides, at around 2.4 deaths per 100,000. The scale of these deaths could be far greater, but it is notoriously difficult to verify whether an overdose death was motivated or associated with suicidal ideation.

    Even if the death was not directly drug-induced, native people in 18 states between 2003 and 2014 had disproportionate rates of drug and alcohol use just before their death. More than half of AIAN people who committed suicide in this time frame tested positive for alcohol after their death, and they were twice as likely to test positive for amphetamines in comparison to similarly-situated white people.

    Minnesota has experienced the worst race-rate disparity in the nation for opioid-involved deaths among its American Indian population

    Photograph of 2019 Women’s March on Washington, D.C by slowking4 via Wikimedia Commons

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