National Suicide Prevention Week: a local resource guide
This week is National Suicide Prevention Week, an annual campaign geared at educating and engaging both health professionals and the public about suicide prevention. It is commemorated as a way to share resources and stories with the goal of suicide prevention globally.
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is the eleventh leading cause of death in the United States. In 2021, over 48,000 Americans died by suicide.
“I think the important thing is to remember that it's not just for the week but it's for every day to remember that people struggle,” said Shari Conner, Clinic Manager of the Behavioral Health Department at Central Peninsula Hospital. “If we use the things that we use this week every day of the year, that will help reduce the suicide rate in our community and in our country significantly.”
She says that warning signs to look out for in others include talking about not wanting to be alive or killing oneself, giving away items they regularly use, avoiding things they once enjoyed, keeping away from friends or family, or searching for a way to harm oneself.
BeThe1To, a service of the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, recommends five action steps for communicating with someone who may be suicidal. They are: ask if the person is considering suicide, be there for them if they are, help keep them safe from harm, help them connect to resources, and follow up once they gain access to resources.
“A lot of it is just actually listening and being there, present with the individual so that they know that they’re heard and that they’re not alone,” Conner said.
The 988 Lifeline can be contacted via phone call, text, or online chat. For those who call with a 907 area code, you will be connected to a trained mental health professional from Careline Alaska 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
The Kenai Peninsula is home to numerous local organizations that specialize in mental health and suicide prevention. In addition to Central Peninsula Hospital, behavioral health services are offered at Peninsula Community Health Services in Kenai and Soldotna, the Dena’ina Wellness Center in Kenai, and South Peninsula Behavioral Health Services in Homer.
Some local organizations also offer online telehealth visits. For those who are struggling and are already seeking help, Conner suggests spending time outdoors, hanging out with loved ones, eating healthy, and sticking to a routine.
“If you’re struggling, reach out,” Conner said. “Reach out and get some help. There are people who are wanting to help you out here. We are a community that is close-knit.”
If you or someone you know is struggling with suicide or emotional distress and needs immediate assistance, contact the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988. The 24/7 lifeline provides free and confidential support and resources to anyone in the United States.