Every year over 35,000 people in the United States die by suicide. This is around the same number of individuals enrolled in the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians (Sault Tribe). Unfortunately this is not the only connection. Our tribal families have been devastated by suicides. For this reason, we began the Sault Tribe Alive Youth (STAY) Project with federal funding received through the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act and administered through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) agency.

The purpose of the Sault Tribe Alive Youth (STAY) Project is to develop and implement a tribal youth suicide and early intervention plan for the eastern and central Upper Peninsula of Michigan, to help our youth stay alive. The STAY Plan will be based on the Suicide Plan for Michigan yet will be customized to address the unique needs of Native youth in a rural setting and reflect the significant Native American population of the region.

The focus of Year One (2008-09) was to enhance the leadership capacity within the region to better address suicide and related risk behaviors; to establish baseline data and identify gaps within the current methods of gathering accurate and timely data; and to identify barriers within current processes for youth to access substance abuse, mental health and suicide prevention services. These activities served as the foundation for all subsequent suicide prevention efforts.

The focus of Year Two (2009-10) was to implement the suicide prevention plan with the four target populations: Native American youth ages 10-18, Native American youth ages 18-24, future teachers of our Native American youth, and the families of our Native American youth. During Year Two, the barriers for youth to access services, which were previously identified, were addressed and corrected. The Seven Feathers Partnership focused on improving the procedures and policies at tribal and non-tribal health care settings that assess suicide risk and respond to suicide attempts.

The focus of Year Three (2010-11) is to continue with suicide prevention activities, to assess initial project outcomes and to refine project objectives to ensure that the needs of tribal youth are indeed being served. It is anticipated that there will be unforeseen needs identified which will have to be addressed. During this time period is also when the Seven Feathers Partnership prepares for long-term project sustainability. The eastern and central Upper Peninsula of Michigan will have all of the components in place for a comprehensive suicide prevention plan and the Seven Feathers Partnership will look for opportunities to contribute to the field of research in suicide prevention.

UPDATE: Exciting News!! The STAY Project has been granted a 12 month (2011-2012) No Cost Extension by SAMHSA. During year one, the STAY Project was not fully staffed until six months into the grant year. The STAY Project has been granted permission to utilize all of the unspent funds to continue and finish the unmet project goals and objectives.

 

The STAY Project has four target populations:

The paramount target is all Native American youth ages 10-18 within the seven counties of the eastern and central Upper Peninsula of Michigan. There are approximately 2,200 Native American students in grades 5-12.

A second target population is the Native American college student population (18-24) in the eastern and central Upper Peninsula. There are four accredited colleges and universities in the region. Due to their location, these institutions attract a significant number of Native Americans, especially from the local area. While there are over 1,000 Native American college students in the area, approximately 33 percent — or 330 — are between the ages of 18-24, which are considered to be traditional college-age students.

A third target population is teacher education students attending the four higher education institutions in the region which provide degrees in teacher education  and preparation. Both Lake Superior State University and Northern Michigan University offer continuing education courses for teachers to maintain their state teaching certification. These local institutions are more likely to serve residents from the area intending to become teachers in the Upper Peninsula and remain in the region. There are approximately 325 teacher education students enrolled at these four institutions each year.

The fourth target population for the STAY Project is the family members of youth. Parents and extended family members (grandparents, aunties, uncles, cousins) are of vital importance to educate about suicide awareness and early intervention strategies. It is estimated there are two family members per youth; therefore, approximately 4,400 family members in the target group.

 

Please visit our website for further information www.stayproject.org.

You can also find us on our social networking pages: FaceBook, Twitter, LinkedIn, MySpace, and YouTube. Links can be found on our webpage. We update and distribute helpful information often on suicide prevention, bullying prevention, cultural awareness, and other important topics!

 

DISCLAIMER: The Sault Tribe Alive Youth (STAY) Project is not a direct services counseling program. We will be happy to help/direct you to the appropriate resources in your area but please do not contact us in crisis or for direct treatment. The project is not intended as a form of treatment for those who are suicidal or in crisis.

If you are currently suicidal, we strongly urge you to seek appropriate care at the nearest Emergency Room (ER).

If you are in crisis, please call this toll-free number, available 24 hours a day, every day: 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You will reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a service available to anyone. You may call for yourself or for someone you care about. All calls are confidential.

 

For more information about the STAY Project, you may contact the STAY Project Manager, Barb Smutek, at (906)635-8629 or via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

 

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Photo by Ken Bosma / CC BY