USA (MNN) –Native American suicide rates remain the highest among any racial or ethnic group in the United States, with some communities experiencing rates 10 times the national average. Lawmakers and ministry workers alike find the prevalence of suicide among young people especially troubling.
Brad Hutchcraft from On Eagles’ Wings, a division of Ron Hutchcraft Ministries, has spent many years working with struggling Native American young people to bring the hope of Jesus. “We have these Native young people share with their peers that they’ve been the suicide attempts and they’ve gone down these roads and the only thing that they’ve found that brings hope and healing is Jesus,” he says.
A growing problem
In 2019, lawmakers proposed yet another bill (bills also proposed in 2000, 2015, 2017, and 2018) to help prevent suicide in Native American communities following concern at the alarming rates. Hutchcraft explains that, “We’ve been hearing this for years, and to see the government actually revisiting this and seeing this is still not only an issue but is a growing issue that we need to be able to help provide more resources towards, that’s encouraging to see.”
Although the bill hasn’t passed yet, it has bipartisan support. Lawmakers hope that additional funding could help address prevalent contributing factors such as a lack of mental health resources, widespread poverty, physical abuse, and higher rates of unemployment and substance abuse. The bill would facilitate collaboration between local or state governments and Native American communities to provide effective resources for combating these factors.
A hopeful response
Hutchcraft believes that better access to counseling and suicide prevention initiatives will compliment the work On Eagles’ Wings has been doing for years in these same communities. “That’s where we see the real change come, and counseling certainly can have an impact and access to resources certainly helps, [since] you don’t want to have them out there without any support,” he says. “But we’ve definitely seen that the real healing and the real hope [come from] this relationship with Jesus. What a powerful thing when these young people are sharing that message with their peers and saying, ‘We’ve been where you are, and we found hope.’”
A needed transformation
Much like communities around the nation, isolation, bullying, and substance abuse are often factors, so On Eagles’ Wings recognizes the important of both proclaiming the messages of Jesus and providing a support network. “What’s very important is not just to say, ‘There is hope and his name is Jesus,’ but there is [also] a community of people who love Jesus, who want to come alongside you. And that’s why we find it so important to work with follower partners in an area,” he says.
“Once On Eagles’ Wings has left the area, they will be there to say, ‘We’re still here for you, and not only do you have this hope that you found in Jesus, but you’re got a community here, and we’re here to come alongside you and we want to be with you.’”
To help On Eagles’ Wings reach Native American young people, Hutchcraft recommends going online here to hear stories from team members and support them financially. You can donate to help teenagers attend a youth conference where they will hear the Gospel or you can help support team members and leaders so they can come alongside these many young people who desperately need the hope that only Jesus can offer.
(Headline photo courtesy of On Eagles’ Wings)