Principal Investigator: Jesse S. Metzger
Alaskans have been hit harder than any other population by the suicide epidemic
of the past twenty years. Over the past 10 years, suicide rates in the
regions surrounding the Arctic Circle have been recorded at levels three times
higher than the Alaska rate and six times higher than the national rate.
The wave of grief that follows a suicide hits every member of the community and
echoes for years afterward, especially in small, close-knit, remote
villages. Over the past five years alone, there has not been a village in
the targeted region that has been untouched by this tragedy.
Maniilaq and Kawerak have moved suicide prevention to the forefront of tribal
focus. The development of a groundbreaking effort to join these two
regions of Northern Alaska has resulted in a movement that will unite
communities and lead to unified suicide prevention efforts. The Northern
Alaska Wellness Initiative project will target residents in 27 remote
villages of Northwest Arctic Borough (NWAB) and the Bering Strait Region (BSR),
who are nearly 100% Alaska Native. These individuals, from youth to
adult, have a greater need for a comprehensive, culturally-relevant trainings
and interventions designed to create a self-sufficient, community-level suicide
prevention. Residents of these targeted villages are experiencing the greatest
need, and recognize the importance of creating sustainable, community-led
prevention and intervention programming. In both NWAB and the BSR,
foundational suicide prevention work has already taken effect, involving local
residents in planning and grassroots activities.
Goals of the Northern Wellness Initiative are
described below and are aligned with the Alaska Statewide Suicide Prevention
|Alaska Statewide Suicide Prevention
||Northern Alaska Wellness Initiative
|Suicide prevention has broad based support
||Suicide prevention has broad based support.
||Develop NAWI. Through outreach and wellness groups, project staff will work in conjunction with all local entities to determine sustained education, training, and suicide prevention initiatives.
|Alaskan communities support the development of protective factors and resiliency across the entire lifespan.
||Increase positive cultural identify and self-efficacy through involvement in leadership and wellness activities.
||Establish community wellness groups, mentors, and peer leaders in every village to participate in workshops, training, and educational opportunities for cultural based wellness and suicide prevention.
||Community members, including youth, identify elevated suicide risk and respond appropriately.
||Using local and regional resources and building on cultural realities, we will develop outreach, awareness, and training to increase social support and intervention for at risk youth
|People who work in institutions and groups with a concentration of know higher risk populations are able to identify warning signs and response appropriately.
||People who work in institutions and groups that serve high risk youth populations (medical & school personnel, pastors, behavioral health employees, youth court, juvenile justice, family services, are able to identify warning signs and respond appropriately.
||Appropriate suicide prevention education will be provided to all of the region's youth serving institutions (medical & school personnel, pastors, behavioral health employees, youth court, juvenile justice, family services staff, etc.
|Alaskan communities respond appropriately to suicide attempts and suicide completions.||Community members will be trained and supported in intervening with youth who are at risk or actively suicidal, and will develop practices for postvention that reduce the risk of suicide clusters.||Using local and regional resources and building on cultural realities, we will develop outreach, awareness, and training that informs and shapes each community's response to suicide ideations, attempts, and deaths.|
Kawerak, Inc. has contracted with CBHRS to provide an evaluation
of these suicide prevention efforts. This project is funded through
Kawerak, Inc. and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services
Administration, Center for Mental Health Services.