Life Science Hour Seminar Series

Name:James Allen
Title:Developing strengths based assessment for suicide prevention with rural Yup’ik youth
Date:Friday, 18 January 2019
Location:Murie Life Science Bldg, Murie Auditorium.


Suicide is the leading cause of death among Alaska Native youth, making youth suicide a primary health research priority for Alaska. Alaska Native communities have responded to this public health crisis through numerous grass-roots initiatives. Using local Indigenous well-being frameworks these initiatives have created strategies to protect young people from suicide. These frameworks build resilience and promote well-being through cultural strengths. The approach emphasizes promotion of protective factors over suicide risk reduction. Unfortunately, these efforts are rarely described in the mainstream health research, and no measure exists to allow study of Indigenous culturally-based protective factors and their role in strengths-based, culturally grounded suicide prevention efforts. To our team’s knowledge, no suicide measure has yet been carefully validated for use with any Alaska Native ethnocultural group. The Reasons for Life scale was developed as a strengths based assessment of protective factors from suicide for rural Yup’ik youth. This presentation will begin by describing some of the scientific and ethical concerns that can arise in direct assessments of suicide risk and in the use of standard suicide measures without local adaptation, along with recent research using strategies that do not involve direct questioning about ideation, intent, or attempts. It will next describe procedures of a long - term university-community collaboration in the development of a new measure for Alaska. The presentation will conclude by reporting analyses using methods developed to test new measures for culturally distinct groups that explore the psychometric operating characteristics, internal structure, and external validity of Reasons for Life with rural Alaska Native Yup’ik youth.

About the Speaker:

James Allen collaborates in studies exploring the effectiveness of culturally grounded prevention strategies for suicide and substance use. This research focuses on community level resilience, culture and health, and collaborative research models, sometimes called community based participatory research. For over two decades, Allen has worked with a CANHR team collaborating in Alaska Native community partnerships to discover Alaska Native pathways to well-being. The team is now testing a strengths-based cultural intervention through studies funded by NIAAA, NIMHD, NIMH, and the IDeA program. Allen also collaborates with the NIMH Alaska Native Collaborative Hub for Research on Resilience (ANCHRR) to discover grassroots Alaska Native youth suicide prevention efforts and conduct the Alaska Native Community Resilience Study (ANCRS), and with a series of projects of the Northwest Indian College (NWIC) Native American Research Center for Health (NARCH) exploring cultural and spiritual factors in recovery from opioid addiction in Pacific Northwest and Northern Minnesota tribal communities. Completed work includes contributions to a collaborative NSF project describing resilience strategies of circumpolar Indigenous youth and an NINDS funded study on epidemiology of stroke and vascular risk among Alaska Native people. While a Fulbright scholar at the University of Oslo, Allen developed ongoing research interests in the experience of international refugees.

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