Campaign Educates Alaskans that Suicide is a Serious But Preventable Public Health Issue, And We All Have A Role In It
ANCHORAGE, AK -- Alaska’s suicide rate is nearly twice the national average. Nearly 150 Alaskans chose to end their life each year over the last decade. That’s why Rotary District 5010 members and students across the state are working together to change the trend with a public education and awareness campaign that asks every Alaskan to be a part of the solution.
“We want people to understand that suicide is preventable, and that every Alaskan can play a role in preventing suicide by ‘being there’ – being a consistent, caring connection to those at risk,” said Karen King, president of Anchorage Rotary Club, the downtown group of Rotarians that led the campaign.
More than 1,000 Rotarians, who are members of 38 Rotary clubs statewide, have received Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR) training to learn how to assist people at risk of suicide. At the same time, student training and awareness programs are being encouraged through student grants. A total of $10,000 in grants of $500 each, provided by Anchorage Rotary, are being offered to students (half in urban areas, the other half in rural areas) across the state. Students decide on the best ways to educate their peers about the signs of suicide and how to help someone. Young people from dozens of schools around the state have received peer-led suicide prevention presentations from two youth QPR trainers, Kathryn Casello and Katherine Murray, students at West High School, who started the peer training after the loss of two friends. Kids ages 14 to 24 are stepping up to become trainers, and the state has purchased thousands of “you are not alone” wristbands with the Careline phone number (877-266-HELP), that youth can give to each other. GCI has donated 400,000 Alaska Airlines miles to support suicide prevention training travel needs for students and trainers.
“For every school we present to, three more are asking for the training,” said Vivienne Murray, youth coordinator and parent of Katherine Murray. “This generation is different from ours. Many of them have seen suicide’s devastating effect first-hand and they want to talk about it. In the past, we didn’t talk about it. These youth want to know how to talk about it and what they can do to help stop it.”
A 10-week educational media campaign includes television, radio and digital advertising, social media and an informational website. The ads feature 10 different Alaskans who have been touched by suicide, and remind people “the only wrong thing to say to someone who might be contemplating suicide is to say nothing at all.”
“This campaign lets people know they don’t have to be a professional to help,” said Paul Landes, senior VP consumer service at GCI, a major sponsor. “GCI’s support is something significant we can do to address a major challenge in Alaska. This important message can help save the lives of our customers and others all over the state."
Along with GCI, sponsors of the ad campaign include Anchorage Rotary Club, Denali Media and Spawn Ideas (formerly Nerland Agency).
Originally, Anchorage Rotary’s suicide prevention campaign was envisioned to cover the Anchorage and Mat-Su Valley areas. But as more people learned about it, and sponsorship grew, the effort expanded statewide. In Barrow, the local rotary club sponsored a community-wide event at the city library and broadcast the QPR training live on tele-video to six other communities. In Juneau, response to the QPR event was so overwhelming, a two-day train-the-trainer event was scheduled to equip 16 community members to become certified to train the evidence-based course in the region. Soldotna held a community-wide event and so did Nome.
To learn more about the campaign, to donate or to sign up for a student grant, visit www.RotarySavingLives.org. For general suicide prevention information, visit www.stopsuicidealaska.org. Careline, Alaska’s suicide prevention crisis line, is 1-877-266-HELP (4357) or visit Carelinealaska.com for resources.
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