'Eskimo Ninja' Nick Hanson talks about cultural identity, suicide prevention
Nick Hanson may be best known as the "Eskimo Ninja" on the American Ninja Warrior television program. Through that platform, he's made it his mission to raise awareness about suicide prevention. He's shared about the friends he lost to suicide growing up in Unalakleet. But this year, he says, he's sharing an even more personal story.
"I was at that level. I was willing to attempt it, and I did," Hanson said. "In front of kids and in front of everybody saying 'hey look, I'm willing to share it with you guys and to share it with everybody,' that's really helped me to heal and to grow."
Hanson is encouraging Alaskans to find an outlet in which they can share their stories too.
"Just share it with one person, share it with two people," Hanson said.
Hanson also recommends keeping a journal.
"It really does help a lot," he said.
According to a January State of Alaska Epidemiology Bulletin, Alaska's suicide rate is rising. The report notes a 13% increase in deaths by suicide from 2007 through 2011. Specifically, the bulletin says suicide occurred in higher rates among males, American Indian or Alaska Native people, and people between the ages of 20–24.
"I think that we really struggle a lot with identity," Hanson said. "Being Alaska Native, I know exactly what it means to try to figure out who I am."
Hanson says rooting himself in his Alaska Native culture has helped set him on the right path.
"And you know, alcohol plays a big factor as well. In my life I've chosen not to ever do that," Hanson added.
Hanson is also sharing about the power of positivity in his own life. Something he says he practices by setting physical challenges and other goals for himself.
"One thing that I'm doing on Instagram right now is I'm trying to close my rings every single day, it's something I'm doing with my followers," Hanson said, referring to completing goals for standing, moving and exercising on his smartwatch.
"It's just a way to get out there, and be active and something to remind me every single day to go out and to continue to do what I'm doing," he said.
The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium offers a series of free suicide prevention workshops and training for Alaska Natives.
Providence Alaska Medical Center has also compiled a comprehensive list of mental health resources that are available to everyone.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, immediate help is available 24/7 through the Alaska Careline at 877-266-4357. Or text "4help" to 839863 from 3 to 11 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday.
Copyright 2019 KTVA. All rights reserved.
YOU MAY ALSO BE INTERESTED IN: