Tester: We must do more to address the youth suicide epidemic in Indian Country

(U.S. Senate)-Senator Jon Tester, Vice-Chairman of the Indian Affairs Committee, today held a committee hearing on efforts to prevent youth suicide in Indian Country.

During the hearing, Tester heard from administration and tribal leaders about the lack of resources accessible to Native American youth struggling with mental health issues.

“Unfortunately, this year it seems like Congress can provide more spending for Defense budgets, but we can’t put more resources towards saving the lives of native youth,” Tester said. “To say that this is troubling doesn’t even begin to characterize the situation.”

Native Americans have the highest suicide rate of any ethnic group in the United States, and Native American youth commit suicide at twice the rate of their non-Native peers.

Currently, IHS only employs 0.44 mental health providers per 100,000 Native American youths and only 1.3 percent of the total clinical service budget for IHS is allocated for mental health services.

Earlier this month the Senate passed two Tester-backed bills that will increase safety and provide additional resources for children in Indian Country.