Wexler initiates national meeting on indigenous suicide prevention

September 16, 2013

Lisa Wexler, Associate Professor of Community Health Education, recently co-led a National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention (NAASP) meeting in Washington, DC, focused on research about suicide prevention among American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) populations. National experts Drs. Teresa LaFromboise at Stanford University and Joseph Gone at the University of Michigan co-chaired the event. Through her participation in the NAASP’s American Indian Alaska Native Taskforce, Wexler developed a concept paper and received $23,000 in funding from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), and the National Institutes of Health's Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR) to support the event.

The meeting, entitled “Research Opportunities for Suicide Prevention in American Indian and Alaska Native Communities,” took place August 19-20, 2013 at the Aspen Institute, an educational and policy studies organization. In roundtable discussions, Wexler, co-chairs and fifteen other prominent suicide experts from the U.S. and Canada identified research priority areas that have the most potential to reduce suicide and suicidal behavior in tribal communities. Several representatives from NIMH, NIDA, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism were also in attendance.

“Each expert presented important findings from their research, and from these the group discussed major tensions and possibilities for American Indian and Alaska Native suicide prevention research. We are hoping that these conversations and subsequent work can push the field of indigenous suicide prevention forward in innovative and productive ways,” says Wexler.

Wexler is taking the lead in writing an academic journal article that summarizes the results from the meeting. The paper focuses on: the unique research opportunities related to AI/AN suicide, what research is being funded relating to this topic, and how to move beyond current paradigms to do innovative research that has the greatest potential for positive impacts in indigenous communities. The resulting paper will be submitted to an academic journal for publication, and will be shared with other members of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention.