Suicide epidemic on Native American reservation calls for emergency measures

By October 17, 2007

USA (MNN) — A suicide epidemic on the Rosebud
Indian Reservation in Todd County, South Dakota has authorities alarmed. The American Association of Suicidology says
South Dakota ranked 13th in the nation in 2004 in suicides per capita, with
14.5 suicides for every 100,000 people.

But according to reports, Rosebud Sioux Tribe Law
Enforcement officers have noticed a sharply marked upswing in those
numbers. In 2006, officials responded to
three deaths by suicide and 197 attempts. In the first three months of
2007, police had been called to three
completed suicides and 51 attempts, a trend likely to exceed the grim numbers
of a year ago.

Unsure if the statistics marked a cycle or a
one-time event, the elders tried to address the domestic abuse, the depression,
and the substance abuse problems. And still, things seemed unchanged.

One newspaper reported that tribal leaders tried to
get to the heart of the despair and do some research on the situation. They distributed surveys to high school
students on the reservation, trying to identify the triggers, those who are
talking and those who are helping.

The responses: There's too much violence on the
reservation. Parents need to take responsibility for their children. Alcohol
and drugs are ruining families and communities. No one cares. No one listens to
us.

The Sioux
Tribal President declared a state of emergency in order to get some federal
support for programs to address the growing instability.

That's when a church leader called Ron Hutchcraft
Ministries'
Craig Smith to ask for help from an "On Eagles' Wings" emergency rapid response team.
The team began work on the reservation Friday, October 12 and just wrapped up
their last meeting Monday.

The team is made up of Native young adults who serve
as role models. Smith says they can get
through where other non-Indian teams can't because "they've come from a
lot of the pain that we see in the Native communities and yet they have found
hope in Christ. We saw a very encouraging number of the folks from this
community pray with our team to begin a relationship with Jesus
Christ." 

Smith says the response to the hope of the Gospel
was overwhelming. Discipleship will now
form the bulk of the ministry. 

Smith explains it this way: "We're kind of like jumper cables. You can't run a car on jumper cables. The
local ministry is the battery. We can
come along and jump start and put a spark back into local ministries where it's
needed. We've created some ongoing follow-up materials that we give to the
local ministry leaders, but it's the local church that is the vehicle by which
discipleship needs to continue." Click
here if you can help.

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