SEATTLE — According to the Centers for Disease Control, Native Americans have the highest suicide rate of any race. Washington state is now the first in the country to address the problem with a new mental health crisis line.
This "Native and Strong Crisis Lifeline" is not only the first in the nation tailored for Native American people, it's also run by all Native American team. Something organizers say makes a difference to those calling for help.
“What we're trying to do is develop a new culture of healing, as opposed to that previous culture of poverty and just surviving,” said Rochelle Williams, the tribal program manager at Volunteers of America Western Washington, one of three crisis centers that answers calls from around the state.
The crisis hotline is part of the existing 988 hotline that launched this summer.
Callers now have the option of pressing "4" to connect with a specialized Native American trauma counselor who is trained on things such as intergenerational abuse and traditional Native American medicines and practices. The hotline is staffed by 13 counselors from Washington and other states.
“We discuss historical and intergenerational trauma. We discuss self care and what that means to indigenous people. There has been a lot of historical trauma, starting with colonization, starting with boarding schools that have led us into kind of like a culture of poverty, and different cycles that are really hard to break, cycles of abuse and trauma,” Williams said.
Williams said the hotline has never been needed more.
“Our suicide rates are higher than everybody else's. I believe that for males between the ages of 10 and 34 is our highest. And I know that suicide for indigenous people is up 139%. And so we have got a serious, a serious problem with people dying by suicide. And we want to address that,” Williams said.
If you or someone you know may be experiencing domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233, text START to 88788 or visit thehotline.org for additional guidance and resources.
Visit the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence website for additional local resources.