Given that Alaska has one of the highest suicide rates of all US states, it is crucial that the State of Alaska address the problem of suicide through prevention and intervention. Nationally, Gatekeeper programs have been developed and shown to be effective in reducing suicide rates. Gatekeeper programs provide training to first responders, such as emergency personnel, public safety officers, clergy, and others, who may be approached in a suicidal crisis but who typically are not trained to intervene in such situations. Gatekeeper programs provide additional training to such first responders to assist them in becoming more effective interveners when faced with individuals who are pondering suicide.
In 2003, the Division of Behavioral Health (DBH) of the State of Alaska was awarded grant funding from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to develop a gatekeeper program targeted to the special circumstances and audience of the state of Alaska. DBH subsequently awarded a contract to BHRS to carry out the development and pilot implementation of targeted Gatekeeper curricula that are tailored to the professionals who may have opportunity to intervene with individuals evidencing suicidal ideation. These targeted Gatekeeper programs are based on curricula that are sensitive to the professional, cultural, geographic, learning style, and mode of communication diversity represented in the state of Alaska. The primary methods utilized to carry out this project include literature searches, matrix analyses, curriculum development, pilot implementation, collection of feedback and input, curriculum revision, and document preparation. Being aware of the unique circumstances of Alaska, BHRS will develop targeted Gatekeeper programs that are tailored to consider the following points:
• Professional diversity dictates that curricula must be tailored to the needs and backgrounds of health care professionals, law enforcement officials, clergy, and other likely groups who may have opportunity to provide early intervention and prevention with suicidal individuals.
• Cultural diversity of trainees with widely differencing backgrounds and experiences needs to be considered in curriculum development and trainees’ needs for assistance with cultural sensitivity and appropriateness toward suicidal individuals who may not share the same cultural background will require special consideration in each curriculum.
• Geographic diversity will dictate variations in curricula as frontier, rural, and urban Gatekeepers may have vastly differing access to resources and support networks and hence may need different strategies of intervention and may face very different circumstances.
• Learning styles will differ widely among targeted professionals based on their own unique backgrounds and experiences and all curricula need to reflect and accommodate such differences.
• Modes of communication must be tailored the diverse preferences of targeted professionals, dictating that the curricula be sensitive to differences and do not leave anyone behind due to inappropriate or less than sensitive educational methods.