Thursday, May 23, 2013
Alaska’s Youth Committing Suicide At Rates Triple That Of National Average
UAA highlighting suicide prevention efforts with exhibit
ANCHORAGE—Alaska has one of the highest suicide rates, per capita, in the country.
But experts say the issue of suicide among college students doesn’t get the attention it needs.
At the University of Alaska Anchorage campus there are no specific statistics on suicide, but officials say they lose one or two students every year.
Those numbers are part of the national figure—an estimated 1,100 students die from suicide on college campuses every year.
According to UAA behavioral health studies, Alaska’s suicide rate among young people is three times the national average.
A new exhibit at the UAA campus gallery is bringing those numbers home.
It’s called “Eleven Hundred Shirts” and it is literally a collection of 1,100 shirts that are laid out on the gallery floor. From a distance, they spell the word “hope.”
UAA counselor Anna Hindmen organized the exhibit. She says she wanted to give students a sense of the real lives lost behind the numbers.
“We throw facts at them often and we have stats that we give them about suicide and the rates of depression but I wanted a visual for them,” said Hindmen. “I wanted something that they could see and maybe with the visual, it could provide more impact.”
Since the exhibit opened a week ago, hundreds have come through and some of them have left notes. Along with the memories, there is also a common theme of regret; regret that someone didn’t do more to step in and help someone who was suffering.
At UAA’s Student Counseling Center, psychiatric nurse Georgia DeKeyser is not surprised.
“The thing I hear the most from people who have lost others to suicide is that they didn’t say something,” DeKeyser said. “They regret not speaking up.”
DeKeyser says at least 70 percent of college students do share their feelings with others, which is why it’s important to do something with information that causes concern.
She says the best approach is to be direct and tell the person you are worried about him or her, and then ask how you can help.
She says that could mean volunteering to take them to the counseling center or even the hospital.
DeKeyser says people should also look for changes in behavior for clues that something is wrong. The most important thing, she says, is to act on the feelings that you have and seek help, for yourself or someone you suspect may be suicidal.
If the situation is critical, she suggests you call the 24-hour crisis line at Anchorage Community Mental Health at (907) 563-3200.