Oglala Sioux Tribe President Julian Bear Runner last week followed the example of several of his predecessors and declared a state of emergency for the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation because of increases in suicides and suicide threats.

     The declaration points out that there has been 177 suicide attempts so far this year with 9 successful suicides by individuals between the ages of 14 and 32.

      The Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Health Board says data from 2009 to 2018 shows suicide rates for Native Americans in South Dakota are 2.7 times higher than for whites.

       Health Board community behavioral health director Tosa Two Heart says the coronavirus pandemic has created “a lot more stress” made worse by the isolation that comes with lockdowns and social distancing, leading to more struggles with behavioral health for many individuals.

        The Chairmen’s Health Board and the Oyate Health Center will conduct a suicide awareness and prevention campaign next month in conjunction with several online, phone, and community initiatives and programs to reduce the rate of suicide for Native Americans.