Preventing suicide one day at a time

Preventing suicide one day at a time

Alaska consistently tops the nation in suicides — in 2014 and 2015 the state’s suicide deaths were ranked second in the nation by the Centers for Disease Control.

Statewide, suicide was the sixth-leading cause of death in 2016, killing 186 people. Among American Indian and Alaska Native populations, the rate was even higher. Members of those communities were 2.1 times as likely to commit suicide than white people, according to the Alaska Vital Statistics 2016 Annual Report.

Despite its prevalence, suicide is a topic few know how to talk about.

To get the conversation started, and provide critical tools for those trying to prevent others from taking their own life, the Kenaitze Indian Tribe will host an Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) workshop later this month.

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, said.

Participants will be asked to talk about how suicide has touched their lives, and examine their own bias about the topic. Dagmar said facilitators avoid words that intensify the negative stigma around the issue. For example, they avoid phrases like “commit suicide.”

”You commit sins. You commit a crime,” she said.

Being able to broach the subject of suicide with someone is the first step to preventing it.

“If we don’t ask, if we’re not comfortable asking — the problem will continue,” Timothy Gillis, a workshop co-faciliator and a behavioral health clinician at the Dena’ina Wellness Center, said.

As a crisis counselor in a state with one of the highest rates of suicide in the nation, he interacts with people considering self-harm on a daily basis. Even so, he’s often surprised by the number of people participating in the workshop who have considered suicide at some point in their life.

“Not only does this help people help other people, it helps people get help,” he said.

Gillis said the training provides a lifeline to those considering suicide by focusing on the here and now.

“A lot of times think suicide means ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ This helps identify a third category, which is ‘not right now,’” Gillis said.

This “safe for now” approach required thinking beyond her own professional training, Stephanie Haasis, mental health clinician at the Dena’ina Wellness Center, said.

“The biggest thing I took away is that you don’t have to come up with some big elaborate plan, she said. “You only have to worry about right now, today.”

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.

More in News

In this Sept. 21, 2017, file photo, former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin speaks at a rally in Montgomery, Ala. Palin is on the verge of making new headlines in a legal battle with The New York Times. A defamation lawsuit against the Times, brought by the brash former Alaska governor in 2017, is set to go to trial starting Monday, Jan. 24, 2022 in federal court in Manhattan. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File)
Palin COVID-19 tests delay libel trial against NY Times

Palin claims the Times damaged her reputation with an opinion piece penned by its editorial board

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
COVID-19 at all-time high statewide

The state reported 5,759 new cases sequenced from Jan. 21-23

Volunteers serve food during Project Homeless Connect on Jan. 25, 2018, at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. (Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion file)
Project Homeless Connect to provide services, support on Wednesday

The event will be held at the Soldotna Sports Complex on Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The logo for the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is displayed inside the George A. Navarre Borough Admin Building on Thursday, July 22, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Schools aim for ‘business as usual’ as cases reach new highs

On Monday, there were 14 staff members and 69 students self-isolating with the virus

Triumvirate Theatre is seen on Monday, Feb. 22, 2021 in Nikiski, Alaska. The building burned in a fire on Feb. 20. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Triumvirate construction on hold as theater seeks additional funding

The new theater is projected to cost around $4.7 million.

The logo for the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is displayed inside the George A. Navarre Borough Admin Building on Thursday, July 22, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
KPBSD schools to start 2 hours late Tuesday

Due to weather, all but 4 schools will be delayed

Data from the state of Alaska show a steep increase in COVID-19 cases in January 2022. (Department of Health and Social Services)
Omicron drives COVID spike in Alaska as officials point to decreasing cases in eastern US

On Friday, the seven-day average number of daily cases skyrocketed to 2,234.6 per 100,000 people

Dana Zigmund/Juneau Empire
Dan Blanchard, CEO of UnCruise Adventures, stands in front of a ship on May 14, 2021.
Smooth sailing for the 2022 season?

Cautious optimism reigns, but operators say it’s too early to tell.

Former Alaska Assistant Attorney General Elizabeth Bakalar speaks a news conference on Jan. 10, 2019, in Anchorage, Alaska, after she sued the state. A federal judge on Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022, ruled that Bakalar was wrongfully terminated by the then-new administration of Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy for violating her freedom of speech rights. (AP File Photo/Mark Thiessen, File)
Judge sides with attorney who alleged wrongful firing

Alaska judge says the firing violated free speech and associational rights under the U.S. and state constitutions.

Most Read