Everybody plays a role in helping prevent suicide

Posted: Sunday, September 05, 2010

Each year in Alaska an average of 130 people commit suicide.

Each leaves behind families, friends and communities that struggle to recover after the loss. Friday, Sept. 10 has been designated as Worldwide Suicide Prevention Day by the World Health Organization to help prevent the needless loss of life and reduce the stigma associated with suicide.

Our state has the highest rate of suicide in the nation. Alaska has led the nation for several years, despite the efforts of many people and programs. We know there are many contributing factors that lead to suicide. We also know that there are many things we can do, and ways we can intervene, to stop a suicide from happening.

Suicide prevention takes many forms. Each community assesses its unique needs and develops a strategy to best address those needs. A group in Barrow organizes regular training to teach suicide intervention. Another in Anchorage provides support to those who have lost someone to suicide. Here in Juneau, a community task force has helped connect resources and support with people at risk of suicide. These are just a few of the individuals and groups across Alaska working to help address suicide.

There are many issues that contribute to the problem of suicide, and there is no single solution. All of us - individuals and families, community leaders, state, tribal, and federal governments - need to come together to help solve this crisis. Each will have their own perspective on how best to approach the issue, and how best to help work toward a solution. But together, we can make a difference.

State government alone does not have the solution to preventing suicide here in Alaska.

No single person, agency, or group has the solution. Parents, teachers, clergy, law enforcement, veterans, aunties and uncles, friends and family all play a vital role in finding solutions. These solutions to preventing suicide are multi-faceted, ever-evolving, and tailored to meet specific community needs.

Almost universally, each of the groups working to prevent suicide would benefit from publicity, information sharing and coordination ideally delivered through a website. If they are lucky, these groups know someone and have enough money to start a website of their own. Inevitably, even the best designed sites fall out of date. The information becomes stale and riddled with inaccuracies. Unless they can come up with additional resources, the group's site becomes obsolete.

To help facilitate the efforts of individuals and community groups as they develop strategies to best address the issue of suicide as it relates to them, the state is proud to be able to offer a new Statewide Suicide Prevention Web portal that will launch Friday to coincide with Worldwide Suicide Prevention Day.

StopSuicideAlaska.org is designed to help Alaskans connect with ongoing suicide prevention efforts in their communities, start their own groups, share their ideas, and offer their support to reduce suicide and its impact here in Alaska.

StopSuicideAlaska.org is a place where individuals can find helpful information and suicide prevention activities happening all over the state. People all over Alaska can support the ongoing efforts of existing groups. Communities that are currently working to prevent suicide can also quickly and easily create a free Web site for their group.

Log on to StopSuicideAlaska.org and see what the portal already has to offer. Connect with others working to prevent suicide or start your own group to help prevent suicide in Alaska.

• Eric Morrison is the Assistant to the Statewide Suicide Prevention Council. Tom Chard is a Health and Social Services planner with the Alaska Mental Health Board and the Advisory Board on Alcoholism & Drug Abuse.

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