Western Alaska sees rash of suicides

Posted: Sunday, December 21, 2008

ANCHORAGE - Six people have killed themselves in communities in western Alaska this month, many of them teenagers.

The small community of Selawik, population 820, has seen two people die. Alaska State Troopers said more attempted to take their own lives in recent weeks. The other communities were Teller, Noatak, Kiana and Brevig Mission.

Alaska has a suicide rate that is nearly twice the national average. The state has consistently ranked at or near the top in the per capita suicide rate, according to the state Department of Health and Social Services.

Last year, the state had 146 suicides, higher than its average of roughly 128 over the past decade, said James Gallanos, the Division of Behavioral Health's lead suicide prevention coordinator.

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