The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium is launching a Web site to provide information and services to teens in remote locations, The Anchorage Daily News reports.
The Web site allows young people to order up to 20 free condoms at once, or to request an appointment to get tested for sexually transmitted diseases. People browsing will find fact sheets about sexual diseases. They can submit questions to experts. There's a spot for people to tell their stories.
It goes without saying that every tribe should have a website with information about its government, businesses, culture, and history. How about adding a forum or forums to this where tribal members can talk about their problems? Unemployment, poverty, crime, alcohol and drugs, domestic violence and abuse, physical and mental health issues, depression, suicide, etc. If it seems advisable, have separate sections for adults and teens. Set up protocols so people can share their problems anonymously without fear of retribution.
My friend Karyl has set up online support forums for families and friends of suicide victims. Thousands of people have joined and I hear they're a huge success. She's even saved a few lives--by calling the authorities or dissuading people after they threatened online to commit suicide.
Tribes should be doing this too. If they can't afford it, get government grants or funds from gaming tribes. Or persuade the federal and state governments, foundations and other nonprofits, or tribal consortiums to establish such sites for them.
If they don't have computers, Internet access, or trained technical staffs, they'll have to tackle these barriers first, of course. Think of this as a long-term solution rather than a short-term fix. If necessary, add it to the tribe's five- or ten-year-plan for educational and health services.
The point is to begin thinking about implementing this idea, as the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium has done. Again, online support forums are a cost-effective way to act against the social problems bedeviling tribes.