Editorial: Suicide awareness and prevention training is time well spent

The numbers continue to be alarming — in 2016, 186 Alaskans took their own lives.

 

Suicide rates in Alaska continue to be some of the highest in the nation. According to the statewide 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 23 percent of students “seriously considered attempting suicide” during the past 12 months. The survey found that the percentage of students who had “made a plan to attempt suicide” during the past 12 months increased from 14 percent to 21 percent and the percentage of students who “felt sad or hopeless” on a near daily basis increased from 27 percent to 36 percent. Suicide is the leading cause of death among Alaskans ages 10 to 34.

Despite those numbers, suicide remains a difficult, often painful subject to talk about. Later this month, the Kenaitze Indian Tribe will host an Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) workshop. The intensive, two-day course will help participants recognize signs of suicidal thoughts in others and make them more comfortable discussing the issue with those considering suicide, Dagmar Mayer, behavioral health consultant at the Dena’ina Wellness Center, told the Clarion.

We’d like to offer our heartfelt thanks to the Kenaitze Indian Tribe and the staff at the Dena’ina Wellness Center for continuing the community conversation about suicide. The tribe’s suicide prevention program, Yinihugheltani, has made a number of presentations around the Kenai Peninsula over the past few months, and the upcoming workshop, open to the entire community, provides tools that could potentially save a life.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District also recently launched a suicide awareness and prevention program called Sources of Strength. We encourage as many members of our community as possible to learn more about the signs that somebody may be thinking about harming themselves. Just as learning CPR or first aid, it could save a life.

The free ASIST workshop will take place Jan. 17 and 18 at the Dena’ina Wellness Center. For more information or to register call 335-7415 or email dmayer@kenaitze.org.

Anyone experiencing thoughts of suicide should call Alaska’s Careline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK).

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