Is the tall man spirit, Slenderman, prompting Native suicides?

The Native Lakota community in South Dakota is experiencing a rash of suicides among young people. This article suggests that the culture contains not only unemployment, poverty, domestic abuse and alcohol addiction, but sense of despair in the youth. A traditional belief in a “suicide spirit” that looks similar to Slender Man is said to play a roll in the trend as suicide is secretly encouraged among the teens via social media.

Pine Ridge Indian Reservation Struggles With Suicides Among Its Young –

Since December, the Pine Ridge reservation, a vast, windswept land of stunning grasslands and dusty plateaus, has been the scene of an unfolding crisis: nine people between the ages of 12 and 24 have committed suicide here.

Several officials with knowledge of the cases said that at least one of the youths who committed suicide was influenced by Slender Man, a tall, faceless creature who appears in storytelling websites, often as a figure who stalks and kills victims. Two girls in a Milwaukee suburb last summer said the character had inspired them in the attempted murder of a classmate.

“They call him the Tall Man spirit,” said Chris Carey, a minister who works with youths, some of them suicidal, on the reservation. “He’s appearing to these kids and telling them to kill themselves.”

I’m not sure this coincides well with Slenderman as we have recently defined him. There are many horror and folklore figures that are tall and slender, faceless and evil. It seems like the traditional tales are getting mixed in with modern memes. None of this causes or helps the epidemic of suicide attempts by the kids. Officials are short on mental health care and are desperate to solve this vexing, heartbreaking problem. Read the entire article at NY Times linked above; it’s worth it.

  4 comments for “Is the tall man spirit, Slenderman, prompting Native suicides?

  1. Perry
    May 1, 2015 at 10:08 PM

    “It seems like the traditional tales are getting mixed in with modern memes.”

    I agree, there’s probably a lot of that going on.

    High rates of suicide are fairly common in various Indigenous groups. Here’s some interesting information about suicide in Canadian Indigenous communities from a suicide prevention brochure:

    “Historically, suicide was a very rare occurrence amongst First Nations and Inuit (Kirmayer, 2007). It was only after contact with Europeans and the subsequent effects of colonialism that suicide became prevalent.”

    “Many members of Native reserves are closely related and share the same social predicaments. The impact of a single suicide is often felt by the entire community. Because of the closeness of the residents, there is a greater risk of a contagion effect leading to a cluster of suicides (Kirmayer, 2007). These can also manifest as “echo” clusters which refer to clusters
    that occur over an extended time period after the original cluster (Masecar, 2009). A single death by suicide can resonate for months to come, with individuals taking their own lives in imitation of a prior suicide.”

    “It is important to note, however, that not all Aboriginal communities have experienced suicide clusters or have regular incidents of suicide. In communities where there is a strong sense of culture, community ownership, and other protective factors, it is believed that there are much lower rates of suicide and sometimes none at all (Kirmayer, 2007). Unfortunately, on some reserves where these protective factors have not been strongly developed, the situation can sometimes be severe.”

  2. RandyRandy
    May 4, 2015 at 7:26 AM

    I’m still waiting for “Slenderman: The Movie”. C’mon, Hollywood – get on it!

  3. Kim
    May 6, 2015 at 7:29 AM

    The problems that plague the reservations are unfortunately self made. It goes much deeper than the article conveys. The oppression they speak of has more to do with frustration. It’s not the children’s fault but they left to their own devices to fend for themselves anyway they can. This includes theft and other forms of lawlessness but when there is no one to care for them and the tribes won’t allow outside help animosity within the community will occur. It’s a vicious cycle and its unfortunate that the children are the ones paying the price.

  4. Perry Bulwer
    May 6, 2015 at 10:05 PM

    “The problems that plague the reservations are unfortunately self made.”

    That’s victim blaming. The problems are not self-made, they are the consequence of generations of racist, genocidal policies that destroyed cultures and communities, and created ongoing inter-generational trauma. Have you ‘walked in their shoes’, or are you only speaking from a position of privilege, when you write off that racist oppression as mere frustration?

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