Pine Ridge Reservation’s intensifying suicide epidemic has gained attention across the state. Solutions to stop the statistics from climbing is uncertain.

Since December 2014, nine people between the ages of 12 and 24 have committed suicide on Pine Ridge. According to reports, at least another 200 teens attempted that same grave feat.

While five suicides in 2013 shook the reservation, the current rate is reason for panic. Oglala Sioux tribal president John Yellow Bird Steele declared a state of emergency in hopes of receiving increased help with addressing the problem.

At a recent meeting of the state Legislature’s Tribal Affairs Committee, some members thought it would be a good idea to call attention to the suicides this weekend when President Obama comes to the state. The idea brought forth was to lower the flags to half-staff on the day that Obama came to the state to honor the youth that have passed on. South Dakota Representative Steve Hickey of Sioux Falls was the one who spearheaded the idea.

The committee decided not to ask Governor Dennis Daugaard to lower the flags. Mainly due to the fact that the kids want the attention, and that would have given them what they want.

Cyber bulling has been pinpointed as a contributing factor towards feelings of depression and hopelessness present within many of Pine Ridge’s youth.

According to Kevin Larsen at KCCR in Pierre, Hickey says that the state needs to come together and give hope to the youth. He adds that if the suicides happened somewhere else around the state, the response to the attempts would be different, likely making national news.

While conditions are bleak on the reservation, the determination to turn things around is contagious. Native youth stand at the front line of this effort.

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