Daily News-Miner community perspective
by Karen Taber, Fairbanks Wellness Coalition Coordinator
Apr 16, 2017
Thankfully, we live in a community where people care and support one another. In fact, Fairbanks is well-known for it. We’ll stop and help someone on the side of the road when it is 30 below.
However, we often feel helpless about suicide. Suicide is a complex public health concern that involves us all, especially our youths and young adults and those who have experienced traumatic events, substance abuse, depression or other mental illnesses. Those who struggle could be family members, friends, co-workers or strangers.
There is hope. When we learn the facts and how we can help, we can prevent it.
National and statewide statistics regarding suicide are widely available but local suicide facts are not. In a 2015 needs assessment, the Fairbanks Wellness Coalition identified several points of data regarding suicide in the Fairbanks North Star Borough.
We know most everyone in the borough is affected by suicide because two-thirds of residents know someone who has taken his or her own life, according to a June 2015 community survey. Furthermore, regardless of skin color, all of us are equally susceptible to suicide. From 2005 to 2014, here in the borough, suicide rates were equal among all racial groups. Also, although it is often thought that most local suicides take place during the winter months, during 2005-2014, April had the highest number of suicides, followed by the month of July.
We have seen progress in local suicide rates.
In 2015, compared to 2014, there were fewer suicides overall in the borough and in the 15-24 age group. There is hope that through continued community-wide prevention efforts, suicides will continue to decrease each year and more residents will live a life of wellness.
You can help by being a source of strength.
One way to be a source of strength in our community is to learn how to be a QPR gatekeeper. QPR stands for Question, Persuade and Refer and is a way anyone can learn how to help someone struggling with thoughts of suicide. The QPR Gatekeeper course is only two hours long and, just like CPR, can save a life. To sign up for a course, simply send an email to Samantha at email@example.com.
Get involved in the local Sources of Strength program. Joel’s Place began this nationally renowned program this past year here in Fairbanks. This program has shown success in rural and urban areas in Alaska. The Sources of Strength program is a positive, hopeful way to build resiliency in our youths against suicide and related risk factors through adult advisors and teen peer leaders. To find out more about how you can become involved, call Linda of Joel’s Place at 452-2621.
Be a source of strength by improving your general wellness and encouraging it in others. Wellness includes all three elements of mind, body and spirit. Some examples of how to strive for wellness include participating in sports, learning a new hobby such as painting, practicing gratitude and volunteering in your community. Improving overall wellness helps us deal with life’s struggles.
Another way to help is to show your support by signing up for the Out of the Darkness Walk on April 29. This annual walk hosted by the Alaska Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention raises awareness and money for suicide prevention. To sign up, visit afsp.org/fairbanks.
As always, call the Careline if you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide or just needs to talk to someone. This Alaska source of strength is always there for all of us. Simply call 877-266-HELP or text 4help to 839863.
These are only a few facts and a few ways you can be a source of strength and help those around you.
One of the wonderful things about our community is we value helping others. We can do the same for those struggling with suicidal thoughts or issues that can lead to suicide. What source of strength will you be? Find out more by visiting fairbankswellness.org.