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SITKA - A new Southeast Alaska Suicide Prevention Task Force met for the first time on April 29 and 30 at the Sheet'ká Kwáan Naa Kahídi in Sitka. The task force will develop a regional suicide prevention plan that can be taken back to each of the communities for implementation.
The task force is hosted by the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium's Behavioral Health Division. It is part of the Alaska Youth Suicide Prevention Project. In addition to representatives from the SEARHC, the task force features members from local and regional tribes, law enforcement officers, first responders, local governments, Native organizations and suicide survivors.
"There were a lot of discussions about the problems that affect our communities," SEARHC suicide prevention manager Wilbur Brown said of the meeting. "We discussed what the group felt were gaps in services, and followed up with a discussion of what we could do to increase the protective factors in our communities."
Topics included discussion about Gatekeeper training to help smaller communities have residents learn suicide prevention and intervention skills, and a discussion about what happens when a suicide occurs in a community and what support networks are available to help survivors cope with the loss. Other discussions were about the high rates of suicide among recent veterans and youth, and how a loss of culture affects suicide rates.
Representatives from SEARHC Behavioral Health and Sitka Counseling And Prevention Services discussed how their programs can be accessed. There also was a discussion of the SEARHC Help Line, a new 24/7 toll-free crisis line at 1-877-294-0074 that is available for residents of Southeast Alaska and is staffed by a team of master's-degree-level mental health therapists.
The task force meets again June 17-18 in Juneau. For information, contact Wilbur Brown in Sitka at 966-8753.