Trauma, historical trauma, PTSD and suicide in an American Indian community sample

Cindy L. Ehlers, Rachel Yehuda, David A. Gilder, Rebecca Bernert, Katherine J. Karriker-Jaffe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Aims: To study the associations between perceived historical trauma, current traumatic events, diagnoses of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and suicidal behaviors in an American Indian community sample. Methods: Participants were American Indians recruited from reservations who were assessed with the Semi-Structured Assessment for the Genetics of Alcoholism (SSAGA), as well as the Historical Loss Scale, Historical Loss Associated Symptoms Scale, and Stressful Life Events Scale. Results: In data from 447 American Indian adults (mean age = 33 years), twenty percent reported lifetime experiences of suicidal thoughts (ideation and/or plans) and 14% reported suicidal acts, (including either a suicide attempt history or verified death by suicide (n = 4)). Diagnosis of PTSD and experience of assaultive trauma were each significantly associated with suicidal thoughts and acts, although assaultive trauma did not remain significant in models adjusting for gender and PTSD. High endorsement of symptoms associated with historical trauma was significantly associated with suicidal acts, and this remained significant when adjusting for gender and PTSD. Conclusions: PTSD and historical trauma have an association with suicide and suicidal attempts in this American Indian community. Although further research is needed to evaluate the causal nature of these relations, these findings suggest treatment and prevention programs for American Indian suicide may benefit from addressing issues related to feelings of historical losses, PTSD, and their associated symptomatology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)214-220
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Psychiatric Research
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • American Indian
  • Historical trauma
  • PTSD
  • Suicide


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