“Anĝaĝiisix̂ matanaan imin lx̂amnakux̂. Anaĝix̂ ukunachin imchin ugutaasaamchim aĝnax̂txichin. (Qagadaan Tunuu) / Anĝaĝiisiin sigax̂ imis akux̂ mal sigaan inixsiisada. (Niiĝuĝim Tunuu)”
“Life is gifted to you. What you make of it is your gift in return.”– Values of the Unangan/Unangax̂
Are you at risk?
It is not unusual for young people to experience “the blues” or feel “down in the dumps” occasionally. Youth experience many physical, emotional, psychological and social changes. During this time, unrealistic academic, social, or family expectations can create a strong sense of rejection and can lead to deep disappointment (Mental Health America (MHA)).
Sometimes young people feel so depressed that they consider ending their lives. Each year, almost 5,000 young people, ages 15 to 24, die by suicide. The rate of suicide for this age group has nearly tripled since 1960, making it the third leading cause of death in adolescents and the second leading cause of death among college-age youth (MHA).
Studies show that suicide attempts among young people may be based on long-standing problems triggered by a specific event. Suicidal adolescents may view a temporary situation as a permanent condition. Feelings of anger and resentment combined with exaggerated guilt can lead to impulsive, self-destructive acts (MHA).
Stats (Alaska Department of Health and Social Services Statewide Suicide Prevention Council)
- Alaska has one of the highest rates of suicide per capita in the country.
- The rate of suicide in the United States was 12.57 suicides per 100,000 people in 2013 (the most recent year available from the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control).
- In 2014, Alaska’s rate was 22.3 suicides per 100,000 people.
- Alaska had 1,525 suicides between 2005 and 2014 – an average of 152.5 deaths by suicide per year.
- At least one suicide occurred in 176 Alaskan communities between 2000 and 2009.
- In 2014, 82.60% of suicides in Alaska were by men and women, according to the Bureau of Vital Statistics, committed 17.4%.
- In 2014, the rate of Alaska Native males that died by suicide was 50.9 suicides per 100,000, nearly four times the national average.
- Youth who are exposed to suicide or suicidal behaviors are more at-risk for attempting suicide, according to the American Association of Suicidology.
- Suicide deaths consistently outnumber homicide deaths by a margin of three to two, according to the American Association of Suicidology.
- More than 90°/o of people who die by suicide have depression or another’ diagnosable, treatable mental or substance abuse disorder, according to American Association of Suicidology.
- From 2007-2016 suicide was one of the three leading causes of death for Alaska Native/American Indian people (Alaska Native Injury Atlas, 2020).
- From 2007-2016 suicide attempts were one of the three leading causes of injury hospitalizations (Alaska Native Injury Atlas, 2020).
- Alcohol use, abuse, dependence
- Low levels of education
- Unhealthy weight control/poor health
- Tobacco/marijuana use
- Family history of suicide and suicidal behavior
- Individual prior suicidal behavior and suicide attempts
- Family adversity
- Caregiver substance abuse
- Witness of intimate partner violence
- Physical/sexual abuse
- Historical trauma
- Intergenerational trauma
- Mental health problems
- Perceived burdensomeness
- Risky sexual behavior
- Violent behavior
- Perceived discrimination
- Mental health service barriers
- Suicide clustering
Youth Warning Signs
- Suicide threats, direct and indirect
- Obsession with death
- Poems, essays and drawings that refer to death
- Giving away belongings
- Dramatic change in personality or appearance
- Irrational, bizarre behavior
- Overwhelming sense of guilt, shame or rejection
- Changed eating or sleeping patterns
- Severe drop in school performance
What to Do If You or Someone You Know:
- Says they want to hurt or kill themselves
- Are looking for ways to kill themselves, like looking for pills, weapons, or other means
- Have been talking or writing about death, dying, or suicide
Get immediate help from a mental health provider or call 911 or local law enforcement.
Important Not To:
- Try to help alone or leave the individual alone
- Restrict access to lethal means
- Not to judge or give advice
- Take action and get help
- Get involved
- Show an interest and support
- Be empathetic and listen
Prevention of Suicide
Suicide is preventable, as a community, we can prevent and reduce the numbers by:
- Having meaningful social connections to family, friends, and Elders
- Creating a community support system
- Emphasizing cultural and religious beliefs that support self-preservation
- Knowing the warning signs
- Developing coping and problem-solving skills
- Identifying whether you or someone else has specific mental health needs
- Promoting access to behavioral health specialists
- Seeking help for yourself or someone else
- Reducing the stigmas around mental health and mental illness
- Reducing access to lethal means of suicide, such as guns, poisons, weapons, medications, and other tools that could aid in suicide
Coping with Youth-Related Pressures
When youth feel down, there are ways to cope with feelings to avoid serious depression:
- Having positive friends
- Participating in your native language, cultural activities, arts, sports, job, school activities or hobbies
- Asking a trusted adult for help and support
- Creating a list of people who love and support you, people you can call on in times of need
- Avoiding alcohol and drugs
- Joining a local organizations that offer programs for young people
- Creating a list of things you have to look forward to
- Focusing on small goals
- Reminding yourself how you got through hard times before
- Learning positive and constructive ways to control stress
- Having a positive attitude