Murkowski: “We Are Losing Our Children” to Alaska Native Suicide

Senator Vocalizes the Needs for Youth Engagement, Community-Specific Solutions

Senator Lisa Murkowski today stressed the need for youth-oriented solutions and approaches to fighting the epidemic of Alaska Native youth suicide.  In a hearing of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Murkowski noted recent successes in dealing with the problem by a heightened awareness campaign in certain areas.

She challenged the Acting Director of the Indian Health Service to bring more young people and young attitudes into the program development phase, in order to customize a message that will better resonate with at-risk youth.

(Murkowski: We must bring in young people’s hearts and minds to end the crisis. – Click image for excerpt.)

Murkowski said:

“It has to be the kids that are there for one another, that are saying ‘I’m there for you.’  As we talk about these programs, I hope we’re not talking about funding and budgets and what the Methamphetamine and Suicide Prevention Initiative (MSPI) is doing to make progress.  I really hope that what we do is designed for the young people and to involve their ideas.  It wasn’t until youth spoke up in Bethel that we really started to talk about it.  It wasn’t until young people from Tanana stood up at AFN two years ago and called out the parents and adults and said ‘We are tired of being victims of neglect and assault and violence.  Wake up, grown-ups.  What are you going to do about it?’ So anything we can do that brings in young people for the solutions has to be key.”

Murkowski then proceeded to ask about the MSPI program in Alaska, which has shown some success, but has been accused of not being administered to its full potential.  She encouraged the IHS Acting Director, Robert G. McSwain, to make sure that the needs and questions of local organizations who utilize the MSPI program are being fulfilled.