Wiconi Ohitika (Strong Life): Youth Suicide Prevention Project

NNEDLearn 2013 Participant: Cankdeska Cikana Community College, Wiconi Ohitika Suicide Prevention

Description: The primary purpose of the Wiconi Ohitika Youth Suicide Prevention Project is to provide suicide prevention education that will save lives, and help survivors of suicide recover from tragic loss. The project is:

  • A culturally enriched approach to youth suicide prevention
  • Based on the culture, language, values and history of the Spirit Lake Dakota (Mni Wakan Oyate)
  • Promoting positive self-identity, increased self-esteem and increased knowledge of the Dakota way of life

The concept for Wiconi Ohitika emerged from a Spirit Lake community survey in 2005. The Spirit Lake Nation Suicide Prevention Coalition developed the initial plan and asked the community college to host the program. The program is based on the public health approach, serving youth, their families and the Spirit Lake community. Suicide prevention awareness activities occur in the community, in schools and at CCCC.

The Spirit Lake Suicide Prevention Coalition identified strategies designed to reduce suicidal behaviors and ideation, based on cultural strengthening. Strategies include:

  • Sources of Strength, listed on NNREP and developed in North Dakota
  • Community activities such as summer culture camps
  • The American Indian Life Skills curriculum
  • Referral of at risk youth to mental health services, based on the community crisis response plan

Population of focus: Youth ages 10 – 24.

Setting: Community center, Community college, schools

Level of intervention: Individual, Community

Reference: Conway, P., Bigfoot, D. S., & Sandler, E. P. (2011). Resiliency and behavioral health challenges among American Indians in rural communities. In L. Ginsburg (Ed.), Social work in rural communities (5th ed.). Council on Social Work Education.


Erica Cavanaugh
VP, Director of Wiconi Ohitika

Cora Whiteman
Project Coordinator