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How We Adapt Our Suicide Prevention Training to Tribal Customs and Culture

Prior to conducting training, Connect staff would be in dialog with the sponsoring tribal entity to explore any tribal customs or circumstances that will need to be accommodated in the training process and materials. To date, we have done the following to adapt Connect to American Indian/Alaska Native communities while maintaining fidelity to our model, which is listed on the National Best Practice Registry (SPRC, AFSP).

Include key stakeholders and resources:

Elders, Tribal Council, Spiritual Healers, VPSOs, Behavioral Health Aides, IHS, IHE

Understand and Respect Tribal Customs and Culture

  • Recognize how limited resources and geography can present challenges in rural communities regarding postvention procedures

  • Offer national best practices in the context of tribal customs and culture

    • Offer substitute terms (e.g. “sudden death” for “suicide”, “good talk” for “safe messaging”)

    • Introduce safe messaging, lethal means restriction, media recommendations in ways that participants can incorporate into their own communities

  • Use a process that gives participants space to feel comfortable talking about suicide

  • Recognize traditional healing for individuals at risk and those who have lost a loved one to suicide

  • Understand that every tribe is different

  • Discuss the delicate, dual role of service provider and tribal member in small villages/rural settings

  • Honor tribal strengths and protective factors (e.g. culture, strong relationships, ties to earth, survival skills, healing practices)

Adaptations to Training Process

  • Gently guide training, not direct it

  • Obtain permission to proceed and to talk about suicide

  • Connect builds on the existing strengths of American Indian/Alaska Native communitiesInvite an opening prayer

  • Invite members to translate materials into their own language

  • Explain interactive activities in advance to clarify intended outcome

  • Understand and validate the impact of historical and recent trauma on the group

  • Arrange trainings in a comfortable setting using circular arrangement

  • Provide information in an interactive manner using illustrations, stories and symbols when possible