Request for Information (RFI): Improving Mental Health Outcomes in Alaska Native Communities – Rapidly, Substantially, and Sustainably

Notice Number: NOT-MH-15-007

Key Dates
Release Date: January 21, 2015
Response Date: February 12, 2015

Related Announcements

Issued by
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)


The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) seeks input on strategies for stimulating the next generation of research to improve mental health outcomes in Native Alaskan communities with a particular focus on suicide prevention. Comments are invited from all interested parties.


Ascertaining factors that protect against suicide is of increasing public health importance in the U.S. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for youth aged 15 – 24, and it is the leading cause of death for American Indian and Alaska Native youth in Alaska. Furthermore, Alaska Natives bear a disproportionately high burden of suicide deaths, attempts, and ideation compared with other race/ethnic groups. Recent analyses show that suicides among young Alaskan Native people (<44 years old) occur at 5 times the rate of White Americans in the U.S., with young men carrying a particular burden of suicide death. Analysis of high mortality in this subpopulation suggests that living in more remote communities contributes to risk. The geographic isolation, cultural diversity, and small populations that characterize many Alaska communities also pose challenges for delivering suicide prevention interventions and assessing their effectiveness.

These unacceptably high rates of suicide in indigenous Alaskan communities have stimulated a call to accelerate action by decision makers and researchers. One of ten task forces launched in 2011 by the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention focused on American Indians and Alaska Natives. Tribally-based organizations and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) have intensified their focus on providing suicide prevention services. The National Institutes of Health – specifically the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) – and the National Science Foundation (NSF) have stepped up research efforts on this issue.

These recent efforts notwithstanding, no appreciable reductions in suicide have been observed in Native Alaskan communities. Thus, the NIMH is seeking additional input on the research that is needed to drive down suicide rates quickly and sustainably in Alaskan Native communities. In July 2014, the Office of Rural Mental Health Research at NIMH hosted a plenary session on mental health services research in Alaska Native communities at the 40th Annual National Association of Rural Mental Health. The intent was to identify research gaps and opportunities for public-private collaboration in the strategic application of science to the problem of preventable suicide deaths in Native Alaskan communities. The session made clear that input from a wide range of stakeholders is needed to substantially enhance future plans for research that can lead to rapid, substantial, and sustainable reductions in suicide among indigenous populations in Alaska.

Information Requested

The NIMH seeks input on innovative research strategies and research priority areas with potential to improve mental health outcomes and drive rapid, substantial reductions in suicide among Alaska Natives, particularly those in the U.S. Arctic region. Of interest are ideas about novel engagement strategies to attract and retain participants in suicide prevention services and follow-on care, the role of Tribal Elders and culturally appropriate service delivery approaches, provider training, structure and coordination of suicide prevention services, services research methods (e.g., Community-based Participatory Research) that will be acceptable to Alaska Native communities, and strategies for scaling up effective services to achieve a large and sustainable public health impact.

Feedback is requested from any and all organizations and individuals interested in improving mental health outcomes and reducing suicide in Native Alaskan populations. NIMH is interested in having input from the field on, but not limited to, the following topics and issues:

1. Insights on unidentified or understudied intervention targets at the patient, provider, tribal organization, or healthcare system level, especially those with generalizability across indigenous Arctic communities.

2. Ideas about innovative systems-level or cross-systems factors that may significantly contribute to reducing or eliminating suicide.

3. Practical or promising mental health promotion and suicide prevention strategies that are currently used in indigenous Alaskan communities but have not been rigorously tested.

4. Identification of strategies with proven effectiveness in disparity reduction in other health or non-health areas that show promise of effectiveness if applied to or adapted for suicide prevention services in Alaska Native populations in the U.S. Arctic and other regions of Alaska.

5. Ideas about new research methods or tools that may be critical for measuring the effectiveness of suicide reduction strategies.

6. Input on novel ways in which high-impact research on relevant factors for prevention of suicide such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other mental illnesses; terminal illness or other co-occurring medical conditions; social media and social determinants; cultural traditions and spirituality; and historical trauma can be accelerated.


This RFI is for planning purposes only and should not be construed as a solicitation or as an obligation on the part of the Federal Government, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), or individual NIH Institutes or Centers. The NIH does not intend to make any award based on responses to this RFI or to pay for either the preparation of information submitted or the Government’s use of such information. No basis for claims against the US Government shall arise as a result of a response to this request for information or from the Government's use of such information. Results will be shared internally with scientific working groups, appear in reports or be reflected in future solicitations as appropriate. Proprietary, classified, confidential or sensitive information should not be included in your response.

Responses to this RFI are voluntary and will be accepted through February 12, 2015. Electronic responses should be addressed to You will receive an electronic confirmation acknowledging receipt of your response, but will not receive individualized feedback on suggestions. Please include the Notice number NOT-MH-15-007 in the subject line. Responses may also be sent by letter or FAX to the address below.



Please direct all inquiries to:

Office for Research on Disparities and Global Mental Health
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
6001 Executive Blvd., 6213
Bethesda, MD 20892
Telephone: 301.443.3945
Fax: 301-443-9877