“Rebuilding our community”: HearinG silenced voices on Aboriginal youth suicide

Melissa L Walls, Dane Hautala, Jenna Hurley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


This paper brings forth the voices of adult Aboriginal First Nations community members who gathered in focus groups to discuss the problem of youth suicide on their reserves. Our approach emphasizes multilevel (e.g., individual, family, and broader ecological systems) factors viewed by participants as relevant to youth suicide. Wheaton's conceptualization of stressors and Evans-Campbell's multilevel classification of the impacts of historical trauma are used as theoretical and analytic guides. Thematic analysis of qualitative data transcripts revealed a highly complex intersection of stressors, traumas, and social problems seen by community members as underlying mechanisms influencing heightened levels of Aboriginal youth suicidality. Our multilevel coding approach revealed that suicidal behaviors were described by community members largely as a problem with deep historical and contemporary structural roots, as opposed to being viewed as individualized pathology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)47-72
Number of pages26
JournalTranscultural Psychiatry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Melissa L. Walls, PhD, Bois Forte and Couchiching First Nations Anishinabe, is Assistant Professor in the Department of Biobehavioral Health and Population Sciences at the University of Minnesota Medical School-Duluth. She is also Codirector of the Research for Indigenous Community Health (RICH) Center at UMN. Dr. Walls is a social scientist committed to collaborative research and has over a decade of experience working with Tribal communities in the United States and Canada. Her involvement in community-based participatory research (CBPR) projects to date includes mental health epidemiology; culturally relevant, family-based substance use prevention and mental health promotion programming and evaluation; and, examining the impact of mental health on diabetes. Dr. Walls's collaborative work has received funding from the National Institutes of Health and the Public Health Agency of Canada. Her most recent CBPR grant aims to investigate the nature and impact of stress on diabetes outcomes for American Indian adults.

Funding Information:
This study was supported in part by a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (MH076705), Melissa Walls, Principal Investigator.


  • American Indian
  • First Nations
  • suicide


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