Empowering our Spirits Tribal Suicide Prevention Initiative

NNEDLearn 2012 Training Track: Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training

The Empowering Our Spirits Program is a comprehensive, integrated, three-tiered prevention approach to decrease Apache youth suicidal behavior (death, attempts, ideation) by promoting protective factors and reducing risk factors on a community, family and individual level.

Population of focus

Native American youth


The Universal tier increases Apache tribal leadership’s capacity to educate the community regarding suicidal behavior and to enhance the tribe’s effectiveness at promoting protective factors that can broadly reduce youth suicide through a community-wide education and behavior change campaign.

The Selective tier addresses the needs of high risk youth who have not yet made a suicide attempt through training individuals with whom they are in frequent contact (called “gatekeepers” or “caretakers”) to identify risk factors and refer youth for treatment using the Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) model. In addition, school workshops and field trips with Elders mixing at-risk and typically developing middle school students focus on increasing youth’s connections with Apache traditions and heritage, restoring intergenerational relationships, and promoting the sacredness of life.

The Indicated tier serves youth aged 10 to 19 who have made a suicide attempt and their family members. The Indicated tier provides youth and their family members with education and skills to prevent suicide through two adapted evidence-based prevention interventions, delivered by Apache paraprofessionals. The specialized brief intervention adapted from use in emergency department settings focuses on safety training, the seriousness of suicidal behavior, and the importance of follow-up care. The 9-session family-based aftercare intervention was adapted from the American Indian Life Skills Development Curriculum and targets: 1) increasing coping skills; 2) decreasing other self-destructive behaviors, and 3) building on strengths and planning ahead for a positive future.