Mona Zuffante

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Indigenous Health

First Advisor

Melaine Nadeau


American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) youth and young adults are the hope for Tribal Nations. In order to decrease the suicidal related behaviors among youth, age 12-24, engagement of this population is required. Historical trauma has impacted this generation, reducing Elders ability to share knowledge, which has resulted in a mental health crisis that is having a devastating effect on youth and young adults. The need to create prevention programs, informed by the youth, that increase positive mental health is needed. This dissertation in practice utilizes a framework grounded in Indigenous teachings and from the Social Ecological Model to address the literature gap regarding mental health and youth and young adults. Each of the three required products build upon one another through the individual, community, and programmatic level. For the first product, I reviewed the following quantitative data sets: the (Youth Risk Behavioral Surveillance System (YRBSS) and the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS). The aim of this review was to determine the influences on mental health well-being among Indigenous youth and young adults. The review of the two data sets indicated the need for continued mental health services, positive reinforcement, and a culturally centered strengthbased approach. The results from this study can be used to build strengths-based approaches to promoting positive mental health strategies in Indigenous communities and lead into further qualitative research. For the second product, I conducted key informant interviews for AI youth (n=10) ages 12-18 and young AI adults (n=10) ages 19-24 to gather input on activities and/or programs aimed to decrease AI suicidal-related behaviors. Respondents identified three important characteristics that all programs should have: 1) positive reinforcement, 2) culturallycentered activities, and 3) strength-based approaches. For the third product, I worked with members of the Winnebago Public Health Department to develop an evaluation plan on activities that the program would like to see created. These activities will be implemented for a year and will be evaluated utilizing this plan to determine the effectiveness. The activities were based on the results from the previous studies. Keywords: American Indian, Alaska Native, youth, young adults, mental health, suicide, programs, and activities