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Hope for Life Toolkit: Implementing Cultural Activities

People Hitting a Drum

Wall of Hope: The Alaska Association of Student Governments (link is external)

  • This idea can be adapted to use in a Hope for Life Day. Interested youth might receive planning kits (including craft supplies to sketch ideas out) to construct or develop Walls of Hope in their school. During pre-planning, volunteers from schools, or organizations, or at-larger community-members would be identified to consult with youth as they launch the activity.
  • The idea comes from AI/AN students across Alaska who decided to create a “Wall of Hope” at their schools during National Suicide Prevention Week. Items for the wall identify positive aspects in their lives that highlight why living is important to them. Students worked together with their peers, teachers, counselors, and administrators to conduct a safe, informative, meaningful, and memorable “Wall of Hope” in their schools.

Annual or Special Event Powwows:New Mexico Native American Pow Wows (link is external)

  • These may be referred to by many names, can include special focus on certain concerns (e.g., suicide prevention; honoring sobriety; remembering those lost to suicide) and emphasize inclusion of meaningful, local cultural components.  Tribes may hold powwows in conjunction with Tribal health fairs and other community-wide events as venues to outreach, educate, and engage community members about the suicide prevention initiative.
  • PowWows are celebrations, social gatherings and friendly dance competitions and sacred traditions are found in this coming together of people. There is a circle in most dances, representing the circle of unity, the cycle of life. Dancers often follow the clockwise pattern of the sun. Some of the regalia and/or ornaments signify special events or honors in a person's life, special religious traditions or symbols rooted in legend.
  • During pre-planning for the event, community members would decide which cultural elements (or regalia or crafts, etc.) to have available for the Hope for Life Day.

Be the Change Youth Club:The Center for Native American Youth (link is external)

  • In conjunction with programs offering suicide prevention services, this club hosts community and school-focused prevention activities and promotes community wellness. (Center for Native American Youth [CNAY] mission is to bring greater national attention to the issues facing Native American youth and to foster solutions, with special emphasis on youth suicide prevention.)
  • At the Hope for Life Day, additional guidance and information about starting a club could be made available. In pre-planning for the event, a sponsor for the club (from school staff or community-based organization, etc.) could be identified that would meet any interested youth, invite them to a first-meeting of the interest group to continue planning for future events and activities.

Drum Circle:

  • Also: see article about drum circles and drug/alcohol/suicide intervention and prevention, Utilizing Drumming for American Indians/Alaska Natives with Substance Use Disorders: A Focus Group Study (link is external)
  • A drumming circle or a drum circle is a group of individuals who are creating and sharing a rhythmical, melodious and a harmonious experience. No experience is necessary. The primary instruments used in a drum circle are hand held drums, but other instruments may also be used, as well. Participants form a circle to play their instruments--they may stand, sit in a chair, on sit on the ground. Drumming circles may be held indoors, such as at holistic fairs or outdoors such as at pow-wows.
  • The drum circle could be used as an outreach tool, and the theme of suicide prevention and healthy living could be introduced to interested youth that would be encouraged to participate.

Native HOPE (Helping Our People Endure):

  • The Native HOPE program intentionally creates a safe and sacred place through culture, spirituality and humor for participants to address suicide, depression, trauma, violence, and substance abuse. Participants share openly and honestly about the challenges in their lives and make commitments to make positive changes in their attitude and behavior, as well as to support each other. This peer-counseling approach helps Native youth break the “code of silence.” The process allows youth to help their friends and peers get through crisis situations, and make the necessary referrals for support.
  • On Hope for Life Day, information about this program could be announced and be available on hand-outs. Interested youth would be invited to participate in activities needed to start the program in the locale. During pre-planning for Suicide Prevention Day a school staff or community sponsor could be identified who would commit to serve as the initial contact and facilitator for the program.
National Action Alliance
for Suicide Prevention

1025 Thomas Jefferson St., NW, Ste 700 W
Washington, DC 20007