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Suicide is a significant problem for many adolescents in Native American Indian populations. American Indian Life Skills Development Curriculum is a course for high school students and some middle school students that is designed to drastically reduce suicidal thinking and behavior. Created in collaboration with students and community members from the Zuni Pueblo and the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, this curriculum addresses key issues in Native American Indian adolescents’ lives and teaches such life skills as communication, problem solving, depression and stress management, anger regulation, and goal setting. The course is unique in its skills-based approach. After first increasing awareness and knowledge of suicide, it then teaches students specific methods to help a peer turn away from suicidal thinking and seek help from an appropriate help-giver. The skills-based approach of this curriculum follows well-established teaching methods to develop social skills. Teachers and peers inform students of the rationale and components of a particular skill, model and demonstrate the skill for them, and later provide feedback on individual skill performance.
About the Author
Teresa D. LaFromboise is associate professor in the School of Education at Stanford University and is a former associate professor in the Department of Counseling Psychology at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. She is the author of Assertion Training with American Indians and Circles of Women: Skills Training for American Indian Professionalization.
“American Indian Life Skills has been a very successful program at Sequoyah High School. Having a curriculum that addresses many of today’s concerns from a Native American base has greatly benefited our students. It has offered students opportunities to be actively involved in a classroom community. By addressing different learning styles, American Indian Life Skills helps students to understand and talk about such issues as depression, stress, sexuality, and grieving. This program has changed many lives including mine. It would be a beneficial program for anyone working with adolescents. I highly recommend it!”—J. Rachel Green, Life Skills Teacher, Sequoyah High School, Tahlequah, Oklahoma