Young Alaska Native males highest in suicide

by Angela Denning-Barnes on July 31, 2012

The average suicide rate of Alaska Natives was more than two times higher than non-Natives, according to a report released Monday by state health officials. The report covers a six-year period and looks at the characteristics of suicide among Alaska Native and non-Native people from 2003 to 2008. According to the Associated Press, Alaska Native males in their 20s had the highest suicide rate.

The report finds there were no statistically significant changes over the six years.

Deborah Hull-Jilly with the state health department’s epidemiology section told AP this was the latest data available. She said information from 2009 to 2010 has been collected and will be added by early fall.
The report says 65 percent of violent deaths in Alaska between 2003 and 2008 were suicides. It finds that the average annual suicide rate among Alaska Natives was about 40 per 100,000 people, compared with about 18 per 100,000 people in the non-Native population.

Alaska Natives who committed suicide were younger than non-Natives, with two-thirds of the deceased under the age of 29. By contrast, only one-third of non-Natives who committed suicide were 29 or younger.

Suicide rates for Alaska Natives were highest in the Northwest Arctic, followed by Norton Sound and the Yukon-Kuskokwim areas. The suicide rate of Alaska Natives living in hub communities was much lower than those living in smaller communities. One of the report’s recommendations was to provide village-focused suicide prevention programs. The report also says ways to target prevention for Native males in their 20s should be investigated.

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