Raise Awareness to Help Break the Silence

According to juneauempire.com, Alaska’s suicide rate was at its highest since 1996. Currently, Alaska has the second highest suicide rate in the United States. Per 100,000 residents, 27.1 committed suicide, which is more than double the national average. The Bureau of Vital Statistics stated, 82.6 percent of suicides in Alaska were men and 17.4 percent were women in 2014. Suicide deaths outnumber homicide by a rate of three to two in Alaska, with more than 90 percent of the deaths being related to a treatable mental illness or substance abuse disorder. The majority of suicides in Alaska come from people ages 15 – 24. According to the American Association of Suicidology and Patrick Sidmore, a health planner and research analyst for the Alaska Mental Health Board, people who are exposed to suicide or suicidal behaviors, or have a history of trauma, are more at risk for experiencing adverse childhood trauma and attempting suicide. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides five steps to take when helping someone you suspect may have suicidal thoughts.

The first step is ask. Ask the person if they are thinking about suicide so that they know that you are there for them and that there is no judgment. In addition, be sure to listen and pay close attention after you ask to see if they have a plan. The second step is to keep them safe. If you confirm they are having suicidal thoughts and have a plan put together, contacting the national lifeline (800-273-8255) may be required. You can also call the authorities or emergency services. The third step is be there. Be there for the person who is in need; it can mean the difference between life and death. Also be sure to follow through with the ways in which you will say you will be able to help the person. The fourth step is help them connect. Help the individual connect with any resources that may help them, like calling the Lifeline or connecting them with people or services in the community that can benefit them in their current stage. Helping them develop a safe plan in case they are having a bad day and going into their suicidal thoughts is also a good idea. The final step is follow up. Send the person a letter, email, call, or text to see how they are doing, which can help them feel the support and care from you. It also allows them to share their experience with others, helping reduce overall risk of suicide.

Southcentral Foundation offers a number of behavioral health services that are beneficial to customer-owners suffering from suicidal thoughts, suffering from the loss of suicide, or struggling with substance abuse. Services offered include:

Dena A Coy, a residential treatment program that serves pregnant, parenting, and non-parenting women who are experiencing problems related to alcohol and other drugs and experiencing emotional and psychological issues.
Denaa Yeets’, a program of services designed to provide specialized support to Alaska Native and American Indian adults who are at risk for suicide.
Four Directions outpatient, a treatment center that provides substance abuse and dual diagnosis assessments, mental health counseling, and group counseling for men and women addressing a range of topics.
Quyana Clubhouse, a safe, welcoming place for Alaska Native adults, 21 and older, with severe and persistent mental illness.
Alaska Women’s Recovery Project, a community-based, peer-driven, and peer-led recovery support for women whose lives have been disrupted by alcohol and other drug use disorders with co-occurring mental health disorders.
Willa’s Way, a comprehensive safe home program for victims of domestic violence, serving Alaska Native and American Indian women and their children who are homeless due to domestic violence.

To find out more about any of the behavioral services offered or to get in touch with one of these programs, you can contact SCF Behavioral Health at (907) 729-2500.

by Riley Stewman

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