Lisa Wexler, associate professor of community health education in the School of Public Health and Health Sciences, co-led a National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention meeting held Aug. 19-20 in Washington, D.C., that focused on research about suicide prevention among American Indian and Alaska Native populations.
National experts Teresa LaFromboise of Stanford University and Joseph Gone of 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, “Research Opportunities for Suicide Prevention in American Indian and Alaska Native Communities,” took place at the Aspen Institute, an educational and policy studies organization. In roundtable discussions, Wexler, the co-chairs and 15 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 and 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,” said 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 American Indian and Alaska Native 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.