Alaska Public Media has produced a roundtable segment on "How to talk about suicide after the fact" with staff from the Alaska Dispatch News and suicide prevention and postvention trainer Eric Boyer of the University of Alaska Anchorage. To view the video follow this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=65dMPLS5kIk.
The Statewide Suicide Prevention Council is presently working on the 2015 Casting the Net Upstream Implementation Report. The Council is requesting input from the public to be included in the report. Any information about suicide prevention, intervention or postvention efforts, trainings or events is being requested from the public to add to the content of the report. Please contact Council assistant Eric Morrison at email@example.com or (907) 465-6518 if you have any information to help contribute to the annual report.
High school students across Alaska highlighted Suicide Prevention Week by providing messages of hope to their peers. Numerous schools participated in the Wall of Hope Project the week of September 7-13, where students identify elements of their lives that provide them with hope and share them with their peers on a wall in their school.
Each school that participated added different elements to their Wall of Hope that make them unique to their community and student body. Many of the schools had the students identify three things about their lives that provide them with meaning and hope for the future. Each school had a counselor on hand for the project and ensured that safe messaging was adhered to.
One high school in Anchorage created a tree trunk with branches and filled in tree leaves with the students’ sources of hope and happiness. “We recently lost a member of our community to suicide, so this activity has been especially powerful,” the school counselor said. “We plan to leave it up for the month.”
A high school in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District had a guest speaker from the Wounded Warrior Project that addressed its leadership classes about hope and perseverance. Then the entire school participated in creating a Wall of Hope.
Some of the schools that participated in the Wall of Hope Project are recipients of the Department of Education and Early Development’s Suicide Awareness, Prevention, and Postvention Grant. Most recipients of the three-year grant are focusing on serving alternative school students and at-risk students in their grant activities. The DEED and the Statewide Suicide Prevention Council collaborated to promote the Wall of Hope Project.
Governor Bill Walker has issued an Executive Proclamation declaring September 7-13, 2015 as Suicide Prevention Week in Alaska. Suicide Prevention Day is being recognized September 10, 2015.
Alaska continues to have one of the highest suicide rates in the country. “Alaska’s suicide rate is twice the national average, suicide is the second leading cause of death for Alaska Natives between the ages of 15 and 34 years, impacting both urban and rural Alaskan communities with devastatingly high rates of suicide,” the Governor’s proclamation states.
There are many contributing factors that could lead to suicidal ideation. “Risk factors for suicide can include a previous suicide attempt, substance abuse, feelings of hopelessness or isolation, access to lethal means, physical or sexual abuse, history of mental health disorders like clinical depression, lack of access to mental health treatment services, chronic pain or serious physical illness, or incarceration,” the Governor’s proclamation states.
The proclamation highlights that there is help available to Alaskans thinking of suicide or grieving the loss of someone to suicide. The Alaska Careline is one of those resources, which anyone can call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at 1-877-266-HELP(4357).
Help promote healthy communities in Alaska by participating in Suicide Prevention Week, being observed September 7-13, 2015. There are many ways to get involved, here are a few:
· Write a letter to the editor of your local or statewide newspaper. For more ideas on how to write a letter check out the American Association of Suicidology Media Kit 2015: http://www.suicidology.org/Portals/14/docs/NSPW/MediaKit2015.pdf;
· Submit a proclamation to the mayor of your city and/or borough;
· Join your local suicide prevention or wellness coalition (contact the Statewide Suicide Prevention Council for contacts);
· Post the 2015 Suicide Prevention Week graphic as your profile picture on social media: http://www.suicidology.org/about-aas/national-suicide-prevention-week/profile-pictures;
· Take a suicide prevention training: https://education.alaska.gov/tls/suicide/;
· Share the Alaska Careline number on social media: 1-877-266-4357;
· Share the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on social media: 1-800-273-8255;
· Make a donation to the American Association of Suicidology: http://www.suicidology.org/Home/Make-a-Donation;
· Learn the Warning Signs and Risk Factors for Suicide: http://www.suicidology.org/resources/warning-signs;
· Write your legislator a letter advocating to make mental health parity a reality: http://www.afsp.org/advocacy-public-policy; share your ideas with the Statewide Suicide Prevention Council.
For more information, or to share events, trainings, photographs or other prevention ideas, contact Eric Morrison at (907) 465-6518 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Statewide Suicide Prevention Council and the Department of Education & Early Development are sponsoring free online suicide prevention training for the public during Suicide Prevention Week. Three courses are being offered September 7 to 13, 2015 on the e-Learning Training Network. To register, contact Samantha Wilson at email@example.com.
The free courses being offered are:
Suicide Prevention – Part 1 (2.5 hours)
This course is an adaptation of Gatekeeper, an Alaska designed suicide prevention training. The course has been tailored to help educators assess and evaluate youth risk and protective factors, recognize the clues and triggers for possible suicidal action in youth, be able to intervene with a suicidal youth, teach others how to become listeners and to be able to give a concerned response to a suicidal individual, and help identify and access resources available to assist a person in crisis.
Suicide Prevention– Part 2 (2.5 hours)
This second course in the series has been tailored to help educators; assess and evaluate youth risk and protective factors, recognize the clues and triggers for possible suicidal action in youth, be able to intervene with a suicidal youth, teach others how to become listeners and to be able to give a concerned response to a suicidal individual, develop and implement a safety plan, and help identify and access resources available to assist a person in crisis.
Responding to Suicide: Postvention Guidelines (2 hours)
This third course in the series has been tailored to help educators: implement a coordinated crisis response plan in the event of a suicide; have strategies to help students cope, working with community partners and leaders, guidelines for appropriate memorialization, identifying students at risk of suicide contagion, and how to move forward after a school suicide.
President Obama signed a bill this month that aims to enhance access to mental health care and reduce the number of suicides for veterans. The Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act, or SAV Act, is the latest federal law to help the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) combat the increasingly high rates of mental health disorders, like posttraumatic stress disorder and depression, experienced by veterans.
The SAV Act is named after Marine Sergeant Clay Hunt of Texas who experienced post-traumatic stress after serving tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. Sgt. Hunt was eligible for and attempted to use VA mental health services, but reported long delays in access to treatment and lack of comprehensive services. He died by suicide in 2011.
President Obama said the reforms of the SAV Act will bolster the accountability of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs mental health services and provide more suicide prevention support for returning soldiers and veterans. The SAV Act:
- requires annual third-party evaluations of VA’s mental health care and suicide prevention programs;
- creates a centralized website with resources and information for veterans about the range of mental health services available from the VA;
- creates a three-year pilot program using peer support to assist veterans transitioning from active duty; and
- requires collaboration on suicide prevention efforts between VA and non-profit mental health organizations.
The new law also has a provision in it to allow the repayment of education loans for psychiatric professionals working for the VA. An individual can receive payments of up to $30,000 each year if they agree to work for the VA for two or more years, among other requirements.
The SAV Act will augment the mental health services available for veterans in Alaska. At least 30 veterans died by suicide in 2013 (17.5% of all suicides that year). Not all veterans are listed on the death certificates as such, so the number could be higher than reported. At least 300 veterans died by suicide in Alaska between 2004 and 2013, according to the Bureau of Vital Statistics.
While the VA has increased mental health services provided in Alaska in recent years, there continues to be a strong need for suicide prevention services for veterans. Of the veterans engaged in mental health services in Alaska in federal fiscal year 2014 (October 1, 2013 – September 30, 2014), the VA reports eight veterans died by suicide, 28 attempted suicide, and 70 were identified as being at “high risk for suicide.” That is an increase over the previous year (FFY2013), when five Alaska veterans engaged in services died by suicide, 24 attempted suicide, and 47 were identified as being at “high risk for suicide.”
Alaskans have increased their efforts in recent years to ensure that quality suicide prevention resources and services are available for veterans. The Alaska State Legislature passed a bill in 2012 that designated a military seat on the Statewide Suicide Prevention Council to address suicide among active duty members of the military and veterans. The Alaska Forget Me Not Coalition – a coalition comprised of the State of Alaska, Alaska National Guard, the VA, all branches of the military, mental health agencies, and civilians – has increased its capacity in the last year and continues to advocate for increased mental health services for active duty members of the military, veterans, and their families. The Coalition is working to enhance comprehensive and culturally relevant mental health services available for all Alaskans, particularly in rural areas where services can be limited.
The Division of Behavioral Health incorporates veteran suicide prevalence in its Gatekeeper QPR training and provides resources for veterans and active duty service members that may need mental health services. Alaska Careline Crisis Intervention also provides support for veterans seeking help through its crisis line at 1-877-266-4357 and through its website at www.carelinealaska.org. The National Veteran’s Crisis Line offers veterans access to caring, confidential, VA responders 24 hours a day by calling 1-800-273-8255 and pressing 1, or by visiting www.veteranscrisisline.net.
For more information on VA suicide prevention resources and services visit: http://www.mentalhealth.va.gov/suicide_prevention/
For more information on the State of Alaska suicide prevention resources and services visit: http://dhss.alaska.gov/dbh/Pages/Prevention/programs/suicideprevention/
For more information on the Statewide Suicide Prevention Council visit: http://dhss.alaska.gov/SuicidePrevention/
There are many individuals working to reduce suicide in Alaska.