The numbers are alarming — the suicide rate for Alaskans ages 15-24 was 46 per 100,000 people in 2010, well above the national average.
Today marks the end of Alaska’s Suicide Prevention Week, recently proclaimed by Gov. Bill Walker. Around the community, agencies and organizations took steps to mark the occasion, but with raising awareness of the issue comes the recognition that efforts to prevent suicide need to be made year-round.
It’s a sentiment shared by Laura Beeson and Leslie Fazio, counselors at Kenai Central High School who this week had students put together a “Wall of Hope,” filled with notes containing positive messages.
“I think we should do it every year, because if we’re going to have any kind of impact on this suicide rate, we need to start talking about it and engaging in prevention activities,” Fazio told the Clarion.
State data shows that Alaska’s suicide rate is nearly twice that of the national average and the leading cause of death in Alaska for people between the ages of 15 and 24. We’re willing to bet that means you know someone whose life has been altered by the sudden loss of a loved one — yet it’s a topic we as a community are reluctant to talk about, one many of us would rather avoid.
Jeff Parker, an emergency services clinician for Peninsula Community Health Services of Alaska, told the Clarion the best thing concerned family members and friends can do to contribute to the solution is to simply stick by the person they are worried about. Taking hints or assertions of suicidal thoughts seriously is key, he said.
“The interesting thing is that if there’s sort of a perfect storm of factors that kind of come together, they are going to attempt, oftentimes because they are at their wits’ end and they don’t know how else to solve the physical and emotional pain that they’re in,” Parker said. “When it comes to suicide and the outcome of a permanent death, you can never be overprotective.”
We agree with Parker, and hope that the outreach continues, at both the community and individual levels, long after this week has ended.