The SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) Behavioral Health/Suicide Prevention Program is joining with 15 Southeast Alaska communities to host local “Walk For Life” suicide prevention events at 1 p.m. on May 12.
Teams in each community have organized their local events and community members are encouraged to take part in the free walks. Nearly all of the events start at 1 p.m. this year (with registration at 12:30 p.m.), although the Klukwan/Haines event starts at 8 a.m. to combine it with the annual Chilkat River Walk/Run/Ride breast cancer awareness event the same day between those two communities. T-shirts will be available for Walk For Life participants.
The theme for the Walk For Life events is to “Live, Laugh, Love: Let’s celebrate life and say ‘No!’ to suicide.” Alaska has one of the highest suicide rates in the country (about double the national average), and the Walk For Life program hopes to help people celebrate life so they don’t think about suicide.
The Walk For Life program started in May 2009 with the Northwest Arctic Borough hosting events in Kotzebue and surrounding villages, and the next year it expanded to include the Nome-Kawerak Inc. area. The communities hosted short walks around town, and many (not all) of the communities followed the walk with a community potluck. Last year, eight Southeast communities joined the now-statewide effort, which has more than 3,000 people participants.
The Southeast communities involved this year and their local event details and contacts are (all events meet at 12:30 p.m. with the walk starting at 1 p.m., unless noted differently):
• Angoon — Walk around town starts and ends at Angoon Community Association building, walk followed by a barbecue, guest speaker and door prizes, contact Steven Frank (788-4636) and Randy Gamble (957-6386);
• Craig — Meet at the SEARHC Craig Behavioral Health office in the Thibodeau Mall and walk to Healing Heart Totem Park, contact Tim Booth (755-2140);
• Hoonah — Meet at the Hoonah Community School softball field for a walk around town finishing at the park by the boat harbor, walk followed by guest speaker Barbara Jean Franks, an open mic and a potluck, contact Candy Keown (945-3545);
• Hydaburg — Meet at the SEARHC Alma Cook Medical Center for a walk around Quarry Loop Road to the Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall, walk followed by a guest speaker, door prizes, hot dogs and salads, contact Mary Morris (285-3465);
• Kake — Meet at the Kake Boys and Girls Club for a walk around town that finishes at the Boys and Girls Club (the Kake Senior Center van and an ambulance will trail the walkers), walk followed by a potluck and open mic, contact Scotty Jackson (785-6519);
• Kasaan — Tentative details are meet at Kasaan City Hall for a walk to Totem Café, contact Tim Booth (755-2140);
• Klawock — Meet at the SEARHC Alicia Roberts Medical Center and walk to the Klawock Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall, contact Tim Booth (755-2140);
• Klukwan/Haines — Meet at 7:15 a.m. at Haines School for a ride to 8 a.m. start at Klukwan Health Center, event is part of the 23-mile Chilkat River Walk/Run/Ride breast cancer awareness event from Klukwan to Haines, a shorter course starts at 10-Mile at 10 a.m., contact Joanne “Elsie” Spud (767-5592), for Chilkat River Walk/Run/Ride info, go to http://www.searhc.org/common/pages/pressreleases/detail.php?id=306;
• Juneau — Meet at the Juneau Arts and Culture Center for a walk through town that returns to Juneau Arts and Culture Center, event held during the Juneau Maritime Festival so people can enjoy both events, contact Megan Gregory (463-6645);
• Metlakatla — Meet at the Annette Island Service Unit clinic for a walk down to the waterfront to let off balloons before returning to the ASIU clinic for refreshments, contact Sandra Wilson (617-3343);
• Sitka — Meet at Crescent Harbor Shelter for a walk to the Sheet’ká Kwáan Naa Kahídi with door prizes, Hashagoon Drum performance by Chuck Miller, a guest speaker, open mic and potluck, contact Rena Wallace (966-8755) and Sheryl McAllister (966-8933);
• Wrangell — Meet at the KSTK-FM radio station building for a walk to the ferry terminal and back, contact Linda Churchill (470-3157 or 874-2673); and
• Yakutat — Meet at Yakutat High School and walk route is TBA, contact Lorena Williams (784-3070).
“The SEARHC Behavioral Health/Suicide Prevention Program is happy to sponsor this event,” program manager Wilbur Brown Jr. said. “We look forward to raising awareness about suicide and our prevention efforts such as the ‘1 is 2 Many’ regional suicide task force.”
Also, the 24/7 toll-free SEARHC Help Line (1-877-294-0074) is available for use by any Southeast Alaska resident who might need help working through a crisis. The SEARHC Help Line is staffed by a team of master’s-degree-level mental health therapists who will listen and provide effective, compassionate and confidential care. The SEARHC Help Line is offered as a free resource to complement the care provided at SEARHC Behavioral Health clinics throughout the region.