An Exploration of Culturally Grounded Youth Suicide Prevention Programs for Native American and African American Youth

Rhonda G. Bluehen-Unger, Deborah Anne Stiles, Jameca Falconer, Tammy R. Grant, Ericka J. Boney, Kelly K. Brunner


This exploratory paper recounts how students and faculty from multicultural graduate programs in psychology conducted intensive studies of youth suicide prevention programs and discovered that the manual known as the EBI Manual or the Task Force on Evidence-Based Interventions in School Psychology is an excellent research tool for studying prevention programs, but it has limitations. The manual illustrates how to evaluate whether or not an intervention program is scientifically sound, but not if it is culturally grounded. Our students and faculty want to be able to recommend to schools and agencies effective interventions for preventing youth suicide, but unfortunately, most evidence based-interventions have been designed for European-American, middle-class youth and most take a “one-size-fits-all approach.” Although a few prevention programs seek to culturally “tailor” existing programs to fit the needs of a specific youth population, tailoring programs for Native American and African American youth is not sufficient. It is necessary to use suicide prevention approaches that are community-derived and culturally grounded. In this exploratory study, we identify important themes in culturally grounded prevention programs; the themes include acknowledging historical trauma, encouraging spirituality, identifying risk and protective factors, and promoting cultural identity and community involvement. 


youth suicide prevention, Native American, African American

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