Vigil Held for Suicide Victims Friday
Dozens gather in Town Square
ANCHORAGE - Alaskans are killing themselves at twice the national rate for suicide. That's despite millions of dollars in suicide prevention and outreach efforts.
Friday night dozens gathered in Town Square in remembrance of all those who died because of suicide.
The event was more light-hearted than you might expect. The events coordinators were trying to use positive tactics to give everyone there hope.
They say the first step in prevention is making everyone feel comfortable talking about it.
It was a day to remember all of those lost in the state’s suicide epidemic, and to support those left behind.
“Today actually marks the eight-year anniversary of losing my father to suicide,” organizer Sarah Gunkel said. “They are not in it alone. There is no shame in having a loved one who has taken there own life… we can stand together and kind of support one another.”
Sarah Gunkel knows all too well what it feels like to lose someone close. In 2005 she lost her father, Fritz Gunkel. He was one of 1,369 Alaskans the state says killed themselves between 2000 and 2009.
“People who have had family members lost because of suicide don't want to talk about it; those who contemplate it don’t want to reach out. It can’t be something we keep quiet about anymore because it doesn't do anyone any good,” Gunkel said.
But in Town Square Friday, the group was anything but quiet. They used music to bring people together and to give them strength.
“With the flash mob it kind of brings a different twist to what people normally do to bring awareness to suicide. Sometimes I think maybe if we lighten up the events a little more maybe more people would want to attend,” Gunkel said.
Gunkel's best friend, Sarah Cusack, helped organize the event. She said she hopes to bring light to a dark topic, to help support not just those who've died, but those who are trying to come to terms with loss.
“This is a very important day for her, so it touches me to see her reaching out and do something that is important for her,” Cusack said. “I am just there for her, when she is having a bad day and she wants to cry or just wants to talk about it, I am just there for her. Sometimes it’s not about saying or doing anything, it’s just about being there.”
If you need someone to talk to and are battling depression, you can call 1-800-784-2433; the line is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.