LINKS
2009-05-13 / Headlines

Sweetgrass Project:

suicide prevention project trains volunteers
Amanda Takes War Bonnett Times Correspondent

Staff members of the project include: Casey Means, Youth coordinator; Elicia Goodsoldier, project coordinator; Rochelle Middletent, case manager Joe Picotte, youth coordinator photos by: Amanda Takes War Bonnett Staff members of the project include: Casey Means, Youth coordinator; Elicia Goodsoldier, project coordinator; Rochelle Middletent, case manager Joe Picotte, youth coordinator photos by: Amanda Takes War Bonnett PINE RIDGE - The Sweetgrass Project held suicide prevention training for volunteers on April 25 in Rapid City. More than forty people attended the training and which included a presentation on Lakota mental health model by Ethleen Iron Cloud-Two Dogs and the QPR suicide prevention model.

Other trainings will follow, said Lisa Schrader-Dillion, director of the project said the initial grant will help develop and implement a comprehensive program to prevent suicide youth in the age category of 14 to 24 years old.

The staff of the Sweetgrass project include Dillon; Elisha Goodsoldier, project coordinator; Shelly Middletent and Carol O'Rourke, case managers; Casey Means, youth coordinator and Shannon Patton, data coordinator.

The Sweetgrass Project, an Oglala Sioux Tribe suicide prevention initiative labeled in Lakota as wacanga ta woecun addresses four primary goals that are based upon the identified needs of the community and in clude community awareness for tribal youth suicide prevention, strengthen resources to follow-up at-risk youth, reduce number of youth ages 14-24 who attempt suicide and contribute knowledge and effective strategies for tribal youth suicide prevention.

Lisa Schrader- Dillon, Director of OST Health and the Sweetgrass Suicide Prevention Project. Lisa Schrader- Dillon, Director of OST Health and the Sweetgrass Suicide Prevention Project. The project is currently funded by a three year grant from Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration at $500,000 per year and its scope of work in targeting the nine districts will include identifying at risk youth, utilizing Lakota spiritual healers, expand QPR training to reservation schools and integrate suicide prevention training into courses at Oglala Lakota College.

The Pine Ridge Indian Health Service cites some rather grim statistics related to suicide from 1998-2008 and which provide added rationale for the project. In an average year there are approximately 200 ideations, attempts and completions, while the average age of a suicidal person was 21. Young males are most likely to have ideations and in 2008 Pine Ridge village had the highest number of suicidal ideations.

Thelma Shangreaux and her son Joseph Marshall Jr. Thelma's son Matthew died last year of suicide. Both are volunteers of the program. Thelma Shangreaux and her son Joseph Marshall Jr. Thelma's son Matthew died last year of suicide. Both are volunteers of the program. Persons with suicidal ideations generally were cited as having experienced a history of substance abuse and dependence, while mental health history was listed as a second contributing factor, Dillon said. Emotional trauma and depression are contributing factors among youth who consider suicide. Goodsoldier cited the statistic of 8 of out 10 youth have experienced sexual abuse.

Furthermore, the project seeks to improve the reporting of suicide attempts, strengthen the processes for referral and follow-up suicide attempts, increase teachers and professionals and social workers in early identification and response and implement the Columbia TeenScreen program into middle schools, high schools and colleges across the reser

vation.

The other goals of the project are to train volunteer first responders from all of the communities, find funding to have outreach workers in each district, develop partnership with area schools and conduct a ten month screening in the schools. Also, provide suicide prevention training for district, school board and tribal council members, in the process of developing a digital storytelling component and will provide overall training to schools at no cost.

Shelly Middletent noted that, "We want to strengthen the follow-up process when youth return from Rapid City Regional West."

Thus far, in March weekly activities were held in the Wanblee area and a weekly radio show is held Tuesdays at 10 a.m. on KILI radio. Two suicide hotlines were established including the Native Youth Crisis Hotline (877) 209-1266 and The Sweetgrass Project Tribal Suicide Hotline 605- 867-HOPE.

At the Saturday training Two Dogs presented a Lakota health model and Goodshield and Middletent presented the QPR model to the volunteers. Two Dogs emphasized the model is not a treatment model but more of a first aide information. The QPR is a method revolving around Question, Persuade and Refer and is not intended to be a form of counseling or treatment but if used by the volunteers can offer hope through positive action. Goodshield said it is the simplest form of intervention and recognition and referral. Upcoming training will include the Yellow Ribbon curriculum and other trainings.

Two Dogs also used Lakota terminology to describe how the lakol wicoun or way of life has been impacted and what creates the unbalance and traditional methods that tended to those unbalances.

In presenting the QPR prevention method, Goodsoldier said "one of the major factors we deal with on the reservation is feeling the emotional pain of grief or loss and whether we have the support from our families or community to deal with that pain."

She explained to the group about myths and facts and how sometimes the word 'suicide' and what comes with is sometimes considered taboo terms and the fear is there that they would be labeled and maybe sent to Yankton or sent away. Another grim statistic was that 75 percent of completions on the reservation were either by hanging or suffocation.

The Sweetgrass Project is located in the old hospital at OST Health Administration. The office phone number is 867-1704.

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