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Dissertation

Alaska Native suicide

28 July 1992

Abstract

A critical review of the literature was conducted to investigate the incidence and understanding of suicide among Alaska's Native population. A brief anthropological and historical review was presented to provide a basis for interpretation of the current cultural situation. An examination of epidemiological practices and their impact on suicide data was completed. While the gathering of data related to suicide is always problematic, rural Alaska presents a set of unique complications. During the study period (1983-1984) the national suicide rate was 11.9 per 100,000. For Alaska Natives 'it was 42.9 per 100,000. For Alaska Native males ages 20-24 it was 257 per 100,000. Indications are that alcohol plays a significant role in Alaska Native suicide. While reliable data on Alaska Native consumption patterns is unavailable, alcohol is twice as likely to be involved in an Alaska Native suicide as it is in the general population. Alcohol is also closely related to violent methods. However, the pattern of suicide among Alaska Natives is not consistent with that of alcoholics in the general population. Alaska Natives respond to seasonality in much the same way as the general population does to its environment. There is no indication that the unusually high suicide rate is related to the more severe winter weather. Suicide does appear to have a strong cultural component. This is also probable for Alaska's Natives. Eskimos in particular have a well documented traditional incorporation of suicide into their culture.


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