Health Issues
Mental Health and Indigenous Youth

Suicide is occurring at increasing rates throughout the Arctic. In the United States, Alaskan Natives die of suicide 4.2 times more often than American citizens of all races. It is estimated that the native people of northern Russia commit suicide at rates 3 to 4 times higher than for all of Russia. And among the Inuit communities, suicide is more common than for any other Arctic cultural group.

Suicides rates are especially increasing among young indigenous adults aged 15 – 24, and the rates are higher for men than for women. Suicide prevention focused on these high-risk groups is crucial. The World Health Organization has defined guidelines for strategies to prevent suicides and efforts have been made to address the issue of suicide in the Arctic. Prevention strategies have been implemented in Alaska and Greenland, while Nunavut, Canada is in the process of designing a program. As a result, we know that suicide prevention is possible, through well designed interventions/projects.

A proposal has been submitted to create an International Steering Committee on suicide prevention, in order to share lessons and tips on suicide prevention in the Arctic. Last September, researchers and indigenous youth from all the Arctic countries took part in a conference on suicide prevention. The results of this meeting have been distributed in several different languages to many organizations throughout the Arctic.