Suicide remains an epidemic among Alaska Natives most of who have been affected by the tragedy of suicide in some way. To improve health and decrease rates of suicide and substance abuse in Indigenous communities a decolonization process is needed based on the principle of self-determination Evon Peter, Gwich’in commented in his speech at a U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs field hearing held on Oct. 22, 2011 in Anchorage, Alaska. Mr. Peter maintains that: “The path to our recovery will require several factors to be acted upon simultaneously. All are rooted in the need for expanding control over our destiny as Alaska Natives through self-determination.“
While the rate of suicides among Indigenous Americans in the age group 15-29 has been reported to be nearly twice the national average, rates are even more drastic in Alaska according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This disproportionate rate of suicide is currently being addressed during the Alaska Area Action Summit for Suicide Prevention taking place in Anchorage, AK from Oct 25-27. At the summit the need for culturally sensitive care has been expressed, the need for coordinated efforts in partnership with the individual tribes emphasized. No single entity is able to find solutions to the complex and interwoven socio-cultural, historic, economic and political factors that are at the root of Indigenous mental health problems. Therefore a collaborative approach is vital.