9/11 is a dark date on the American calendar, a day of infamy and colossal tragedy.
Today, 9/10, has a grim ring to it as well. It’s World Suicide Prevention Day.
Except when a celebrity or a well-known public figure terminates his or her life, suicide-related news doesn’t make it beyond an obscure paragraph, tucked somewhere in the inside pages of a newspaper.
Let’s face it: they make depressing stories. But just because they don’t make happy reading, they’re not non-existent.
Suicides are the 11th leading cause of death for all ages in the United States. According to statistics from the Center for Disease Control, in 2006 (which is the latest data), the U.S. recorded more than 33,000 suicides. This translates to one suicide every 16 minutes.
A breakdown along racial lines indicates that Caucasians have a higher rate of completed suicides (12.5 per 100,000) than African-Americans (4.9 per 100,000.)
Suicide is the second leading cause of death among Native Americans youths between the ages 15 and 34. Nearly 20 in every 100,000 young adults self-destruct themselves as compared to the national average of 11 for that age group.
Tim Giago, a member of the Oglala Lakota tribe, editor of the Native Sun Weekly and author of “Children Left Behind” explained that the keys factors that drove Native American kids to utter hopelessness were economic decrepitude and what he calls the “boarding school syndrome.”
Native children oftentimes grow up in poverty as bad as most Third World nations. On most reservations in the Northern Plains, there are few businesses and therefore few jobs for teenagers. There is a sense of hopelessness. The young people watch television and see things that are not a part of their lives.
There is a cycle of violence, abuse, child molestation, spousal abuse and other forms of deviance and cruelty that were never a part of the culture of the Indian people until they were sent to Indian boarding schools in the 1800s through the 1950s where many were physically, sexually and psychologically abused at an early age. You can’t take innocent children and abuse them and not expect that they will not turn out to be abusers themselves. We are in about the third generation of boarding school survivors, or the third cycle, and until that cycle is broken, there will always be a lot of suicides among the young.
Today’s educators on the Indian reservations are either ignorant of the “boarding school syndrome” or will not recognize it as a classic cause of hopelessness leading to murder, abuse and suicide. There is not a Native child that has not had a grandparent, parent, aunt, uncle or other relative that has not been subjected to the violence of the Indian missions and boarding schools. It is generational and it is still a part of life on many Indian reservations.