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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have just released their latest June 2019 report titled Suicide Rates for Females and Males by Race and Ethnicity: United States, 1999 and 2017 which documents the number of deaths caused by suicide in the United States from the years of 1999 to 2017.

The total U.S. population has seen an increase of 33% in suicides in the past 18-year report, the CDC also reported the following:

For females, age-adjusted suicide rates increased significantly between 1999 and 2017 for all race and ethnicity groups except non-Hispanic Asian or Pacific Islander. The largest increase occurred for non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Native females [at] 139%.


The CDC also reported the same for non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Native men at a 71% increase.


According to the CDC, “Data are from the National Vital Statistics System Multiple Cause of Death files for 1999 and 2017.”

According to a CDC 2018 report, “American Indian/Alaska Natives (AI/AN) have the highest rates of suicide of any racial/ethnic group in the United States … Suicide disproportionately affects American Indians/Alaska Natives. The suicide rate among AI/AN has been increasing since 2003, and in 2015, AI/AN suicide rates in the 18 states participating in the National Violent Death Reporting System was 21.5 per 100,000, more than 3.5 times higher than those among racial/ethnic groups with the lowest rates.”

In answer to the CDC report, USA Today’s Alia E. Dastagir reported on how Native American and Alaska Native women are disproportionately affected by suicide, and that suicide is often caused by high rates of poverty, substance abuse, geographic location and limited access to health services.

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In the article, Shelby Rowe, Chickasaw, talked about how the death of her husband soon after the birth of her second child had eventually caused her to make an attempt on her life. Luckily, she survived.

Rowe told USA Today, "I wanted to live, I just didn’t know how to anymore … I think that’s something that a lot of people miss, they think that individuals who are suicidal want to die."

Rowe explained in an email to Indian Country Today that in the days after her attempt she was able to connect with her father which gave her a new outlook on her life.

Rowe also mentioned that the CDC's recent report shows "what many of us in Native communities already knew – suicide rates are increasing exponentially for our people. Through my work, I’m fortunate enough to know of dozens of really good programs operated by tribal nations that are helping to save lives. If we all work together, within the next 20 years we can show a remarkable decrease in suicide deaths among our people." 

Rowe currently serves on the Consumer Survivor Committee for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and on the Clinical Advisory Board for Crisis Text Line. Rowe is also a co-chair for the newly formed Indigenous Peoples Committee for the American Association of Suicidology. 

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

If you or someone you love is experiencing a crisis, please call 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or visit for resources. 

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Follow Indian Country Today’s associate editor Vincent Schilling (Akwesasne Mohawk) on Twitter - @VinceSchilling and Instagram - @VinceSchilling

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