New Mexico Indian Affairs Department
September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Throughout the month, the Indian Affairs Department (IAD) is working to raise awareness and provide resources to the mental and behavioral health crisis our Native American communities face.
“Suicide is preventable; increasing our own knowledge and awareness of what to look for when someone may be struggling with depression or having thoughts of suicide is an important first step toward prevention,” said Cabinet Secretary Lynn Trujillo. “It is more important than ever that we continue to pay close attention to our relatives, especially during this difficult time of uncertainty. By creating a culture that’s smart about mental health, we can save lives.”
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Minority Health, in 2019, suicide was the second leading cause of death for American Indian/Alaska Natives between the ages of 10 and 34. The overall death rate from suicide for American Indian/Alaska Native adults is about 20 percent higher compared to the non-Hispanic white population.
Over the past year, the Indian Affairs Department has taken several actions to provide culturally appropriate suicide prevention assistance to our Tribal communities, including:
- Establishment of the inaugural Indigenous Youth Council (IYC)
- In June 2021, the Indian Affairs Department and Indigenous Youth Council convened Indigenous youth from across the state to acquire mental health-related resiliency tools and strategies and to identify mental health needs and priorities specific to Indigenous youth.
- The Indigenous Youth Council presented a Final Report and Recommendations to Governor Lujan Grisham, her cabinet, and Tribal Leadership during the State Tribal Leaders Summit.
- Participated in the state’s Path to Wellness TV campaign.
- Partnered with University of New Mexico’s Honoring Native Life to host a suicide prevention training series for behavioral health providers in Tribal communities.
- Partnered with Harvard University to memorialize New Mexico Tribal Behavioral and Mental Health Response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Participated in the Behavioral Health Collaborative and its advisory council, the Behavioral Health Planning Council. Through this work, the Indian Affairs Department:
- Co-Chaired the Native American Sub-Committee (NASC)
- Administered funds for the five Native American -specific Local Collaboratives that include all Nations, Tribes, and Pueblos.
- In the spring of 2021, the Indian Affairs Department and Native American Sub-Committee sponsored four youth mental health events in the Pueblo of Zuni, the Pueblo of Isleta, Jicarilla Apache Nation, and Mescalero Apache Tribe.
The Indian Affairs Department continues to advocate for tribal behavioral health initiatives, including:
- Advocating for the establishment of the Native American Workgroup in the New Mexico Suicide Prevention Coalition.
- Co-sponsoring the establishment of the New Mexico Tribal Behavioral Health Providers Association.
- Securing $150,000 in reoccurring funding for suicide prevention efforts in the 2021 Legislative Session.
- Collaborating with the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department Office of Behavioral Health to fund tribal behavioral health initiatives in the Pueblo of Santo Domingo, Jicarilla Apache Nation, and with the New Mexico Suicide Prevention Coalition Native American Workgroup.