News / USA

Tribal Teens Fight Suicide Through Positive Social Networking

'Silent Epidemic' impacts Native Americans more than general US population

Tribal youth from across the Northwest work on comic book panels on another track of the recent health promotion conference.
Tribal youth from across the Northwest work on comic book panels on another track of the recent health promotion conference.

Multimedia

Audio
Tom Banse

Almost one in four Native American youths has attempted suicide, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

A new initiative is in the works to combat those grim statistics through positive social networking.

Brandon Trejo, 17, who lives on a reservation in eastern Washington state, knows a face behind that statistic.

"One of my friends, he tried overdosing on a bunch of pills," Trejo says. "It didn't work. He ended up going to the hospital and getting his stomach pumped."

Trejo was shocked and still doesn't understand his friend's actions.

Oregon tribal member Sarah Hull has felt the same shock, not just once, but multiple times. The 16-year-old goes to a school off the reservation.

"I know from personal experience living in a Native American community and being around people, depression is really common," she says, "because for a lot of people it's hard to find your way to your culture or find your way to a certain passion when you don't who you are and you're confused."

Audio engineer Brad Kaminski records a song by Sarah Hull.
Audio engineer Brad Kaminski records a song by Sarah Hull.

Hull has found her way to a passion - music. She records in a makeshift recording studio set up at a tribal health workshop.Hull lays awake at night trying to find the right words for a song on the unusual theme of suicide prevention.

Fighting back

Her recording session is part of an anti-suicide/healthy living workshop organized by the Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board. The regional agency invited 60 students from different tribes to come to Portland for a week.

According to suicide prevention coordinator Colbie Caughlan, the staff wanted help crafting health promotion messages that would resonate with young people.

"Youth learn from youth," says Caughlan. "That's what has happened forever."

Conference organizers arranged presentations about suicide warning signs and healthy, drug-free living. Then they set the young people loose with video camera, drawing paper, notebooks or a music producer.

Caughlan hopes the experience will unleash a wave of uplifting social networking including teen-generated web videos, music and even a comic book.

"If they say, 'Oh, then I went to a leadership conference,’ or ‘I did a suicide prevention training and it taught me something so amazing that I actually helped save my best friend's life,' those are the things people are going to hold with them and tell their friends."

This initiative was inspired by a successful web-based suicide prevention strategy in Australia.

Breaking the silence

Todd Denny, one of the music mentors in Portland, has led musical workshops to combat social ills on Northwest reservations for a decade. He believes technology could help break the stigma around a difficult, sensitive topic.

"One of the big challenges with suicide in all communities, not just tribal communities, is the silence and the secrecy," says Denny. "So a program like this allows people to break through those barriers of silence and secrecy, to express themselves, to tell their stories."

Over the course of a week, some of the teens did that through traditional Native American music. Others explored the suicide prevention theme through more contemporary genres such as rap and hip hop.

Jordan Hill, 19, who sings and plays guitar, chooses his lyrics carefully. "Every song that I've written is a message to somebody, which is why when I finally put out the album that I'm working on, I want to name it 'Memoir' because it's a message to everybody."

Hill's message is slated to become part of a comprehensive online health resource created for native youth by their peers. The multimedia campaign, called "WeAreNative," launches later this year.

You May Like

Nigeria Incumbent in Tight Spot as Poll Nears

Muhammadu Buhari is running a strong challenge to Goodluck Jonathan, amid a faltering economy and Boko Haram security worries More

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo tells VOA that despite her fame, life is still a struggle as she waits for government's promise of support to arrive More

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

At least seven different indigenous groups in Ratanakiri depend mainly on forest products for their survival, say they face loss of their land, traditional way of life More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More