Preventing Suicide During the Holidays
Young Alaska Native Men Most at Risk
The holidays can be stressful, especially as the days get colder and nights get longer. Anchorage Police say that maybe one reason they are getting more calls about suicide.
Alaska leads the nation in suicide rates, especially among young Alaska Native men.
On average a person will make about five suicide attempts before actually killing him or herself. Those attempts are cries for help, and experts say, it's up to the rest of us to heed those calls and look for the signs.
“Are they not eating, are they messing around with drugs and alcohol,” said Eric Boyer, a training manager with the Alaska Children’s Services.
“Depression, loss of culture,” said Robert Heffle, an employee and community assistance advisor with Southcentral Foundation. “They're suicide risk factors that are all around us that experts say sometimes simply being in Alaska can compound the issue.
Boyer went on to say, “The weather of course, the long winters, but also a lot of people who live here are separated from their families in the lower 48 so they don't have as many support systems.”
Looking at the numbers that is 21.8 suicides per 100,000 people the past ten years, nearly three suicides a week. Many of those Alaska Native males between the ages of 15 and 24.
Which is why organizations like Southcentral Foundation and Statewide Suicide Prevention Council are using education and visual aids to try to stop the trend
“We see each attempt as an opportunity to intervene and provide services,” said Heffle. “Feeling valued, that you have something to offer your community, that you know where to get help, increasing problem solving skills.”
Counselors say the first steps begin with talking with family members or friends who may be suicidal.
“Its not a joke for someone to say I’m not going to be here in a week or I’m not going to be needing this car anymore, things they used to enjoy and want to hang on till,” says Heffle. “It can be a sign that someone is planning to make a suicidal attempt.”
“It's a myth that if we ask people if they have thoughts of ending their life by suicide that it may plant the idea, if anything it gives them to opportunity to know that people care about them and are interested in how they are doing.”
Boyer adds, “As long as somebody is caring and making to speak to somebody that person has a chance to live, its never too far gone till somebody dies, there's still an opportunity, a chance to speak to them and help them to make the right decision.”
Anyone who is worried about a friend or at risk himself can talk to someone in a variety of ways like thru Southcentral Foundations Danaa Yeets program or simply by calling the Careline Crisis Intervention Center which runs 24 hours 7 days a week at 1-877-266-4357. You can even call 911 because even police officers are trained to talk with people dealing with suicide.