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Suicide And Soul Wound: Stress, Coping, And Culture In The American Indian And Alaska Native Youth Context

Zimiles, Eleni

Suicide, the second leading cause of death for American Indian and Alaska Native (AI) youth ages 15 to 24, raises a critical issue for social work research and practice. This paper argues that AI youth suicide is a contemporary manifestation of ““soul wound”” and expands the definition of soul wound to include present stressors and coping mechanisms for youth that are characterized by a legacy of colonization and cultural oppression. While AI youth come from diverse communities, this paper will demonstrate the importance of examining youth suicide as part of the overall AI experience in the United States. Using an indigenist stress process model framework, it will subsequently examine four forms of stressors informed by the marginalization of the AI population: psychological strains of historical trauma, environmental stressors, quotidian stressors arising from socio-economic factors, and adversity from personal and relational role conflicts. AI youth mediate these stressors through coping mechanisms around social support and collective mastery. This paper will conclude with a call to develop an anti-oppressive, culturally relevant social work practice that supports meaningful identity development and collective efficacy.

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Columbia Social Work Review

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Academic Units
Social Work
Published Here
September 16, 2014
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