Last week New Mexico In Depth published a series about a crisis happening in plain sight– the frequency with which Native American youth in New Mexico are dying by their own hands.
The rate is more than twice as high as in other ethnicities or populations — a stunning statistic.
Given the significance and seriousness of the issue, the subject might as well not exist for many New Mexicans. New Mexico media seldom reports on it for various reasons, including many outlets’ struggle to do more with less in an era of downsizing. More importantly, the subject seems to rarely break through the haze of competing priorities each year in Santa Fe as the state’s 112 lawmakers convene to deliberate on the state’s most pressing issues.
Judging from reader response, however, our series touched a nerve.
The first story — Native American youth face higher suicide risk — collected 1,800 Facebook likes, easily the largest number since 2012, when New Mexico In Depth began operating. To give some context, the most Facebook likes a NMID post ever had before last week was 834 – a number that evoked awe among our staff at the time.
I’m interpreting last week’s interest in the Native American suicide series as a sign: this subject is on people’s minds and is of significant public interest.
As journalists, it is not our role to advocate particular solutions to challenges confronting New Mexico. It is our duty, however, to identify challenges and highlight potential solutions.
With that spirit in mind, we at New Mexico In Depth want to thank everyone who read the Choosing Life series. We especially are grateful to those who passed our stories on to others after reading them. (If you didn’t read the stories, here’s a link to the entire series.)
As I said in the Editor’s Note that accompanied our series, the heart of journalism beats with hope. The best of the tradition often identifies a problem to provoke a collective focus on a challenge in a way that inspires solutions.
We hope the series fulfills that purpose.