Deaths by suicide among the White Mountain Apache in Arizona dropped by nearly 40 percent between 2006 and 2012 compared to the previous six-year period, new research from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the tribe finds.
The substantial reduction came after tribal leaders responded to the high number of suicides occurring in their community by passing legislation to develop a surveillance system and intensive prevention program, which tracks and triages those with suicide attempts and suicidal thoughts.
The findings are published in the November issue of the American Journal of Public Health. These results bolster the results of a handful of studies to show that suicide is preventable with comprehensive, community-based efforts, and one of the only to show reduction in both attempts and deaths.
“Suicide is a public health problem that many don’t see as preventable,” says study leader Dr. Mary Cwik, a clinical psychologist and researcher at the Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health at the Bloomberg School. “In recent years, suicide deaths have surpassed deaths due to motor vehicle crashes, and suicide is the leading cause of death globally for girls between the ages of 15 and 19. This study shows how a courageous community, the White Mountain Apache Tribe, used legislation and community mental health workers to successfully address suicide as a public health crisis.”