- Associated Press - Thursday, March 5, 2015

KYLE, S.D. (AP) - Residents of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation planned to wrap up their three-day effort to address youth suicide Thursday by laying out strategies to combat it.

About 80 people went to the Oglala Lakota College on Wednesday to talk about ways to prevent youth suicides, the Rapid City Journal reported (https://bit.ly/1G1Jh2m ).

Lynette Bettelyoun, a senior at Pine Ridge High School, told attendees about a middle school student that had committed suicide. While devastating to the school, the student’s death led Bettelyoun and her friends to console other students.

“I wanted to make them feel better and maybe save a life,” she said.

In 2014, there were 162 suicide attempts on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, according to data gathered by authorities. Since late December, five young people have killed themselves on the reservation.

Some students attributed the high number of suicides to bullying.

“Really bad messages tell (the targets) they should just cut themselves,” said Nizhoni Dee, an eighth-grader at Wolf Creek School. “They call them awful people who should just kill themselves.”

But Mariah Bravo, a senior at Pine Ridge High School, said drugs and alcohol often play a role, adding that many students also “don’t get enough attention and love from their parents.”

Bravo and Bettelyoun, who are successful athletes, have both become mentors to younger girls on the reservation to make sure there are positive role models available.

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Information from: Rapid City Journal, https://www.rapidcityjournal.com

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