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Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe Mental Health Services

  • Project Title: Suicide Prevention for the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribal Community
  • Program Representative Interviewed: Christine Venery and Chanel Cook
  • Location: Akwesasne, New York
  • Program Overview: Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe Mental Health Services provides confidential outpatient mental health services for children and adults in Akwesasne, a Mohawk Nation territory encompassing northern New York and Ontario and Quebec, Canada. Their focus on suicide prevention began in the wake of a suicide death in the community. They began their suicide prevention efforts by leveraging mini-grants and a New York State quality improvement initiative to screen for suicide risk, provide weekly care, and conduct outreach. They later expanded their work to include prevention and postvention. Some of their many grant activities include delivery of evidence-based school and community trainings including QPR, Connect Postvention, Youth Mental Health First Aid, and Sources of Strength; conducting media campaigns for Crisis Text Line; and offering after-hours crisis phone coverage. These activities are supported by grants from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and Indian Health Service.

    Cultural adaptation is a key component of the tribe's work. For example, Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe Mental Health Services worked with training developers to film media campaign videos featuring actors from tribal nations; implemented activities specific for tribal communities (for example, beading and smudging as self-care); tailored risk and protective factors to represent the strengths and challenges of tribal communities (including historical trauma, residential schools, increased risk of substance use as risk factors, and spiritual connection and tribal identity as protective factors); and inserted local data and data for American Indians.

    Involving and empowering community members has been one of the greatest successes of the suicide prevention programs implemented by Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe Mental Health Services. Through a lens of “culture is prevention,” conversations with youth, families, traditional leaders, and respected elders about mental health, suicide prevention, and generational and intergenerational trauma have started to reduce stigma, increase help seeking behaviors, and promote healing. Over time, there has been an increase in knowledge, awareness, and community efforts to talk about and prevent suicide among tribal community members.

Models represented by this program: