October 07 2010Developing a regional suicide prevention plan that can be taken back to local communities was the focus of the Southeast Alaska Regional Suicide Prevention Task Force meeting held Wednesday and Thursday, Oct. 6-7, at the Ketchikan Indian Community building. The regional task force was created in January 2010 and is funded by a state suicide prevention grant managed by the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) Behavioral Health Prevention program. The task force’s mission statement is “To Save Lives” and its vision statement is “1 is 2 Many.” The task force features community members from a variety of organizations throughout Southeast Alaska, such as medical and behavioral health professionals, clergy, law enforcement, the U.S. Coast Guard, community and SEARHC Board members, school officials, tribal leaders, youth representatives and survivors of suicide. “We all learn at an early age to listen. Now we need to concentrate on that and listen to our children,” said Bill Martin, a task force member from Juneau. Task force members will take the regional plan back to their communities for discussion, then bring it back for a meeting on Thursday, Nov. 18, using videoconference technology (task force members will meet at their local SEARHC clinics to access the videoconference technology). When they go back to their communities, task force members will develop community coalitions and set the tone for local suicide prevention activities. Some of community activities and agenda items include the selection of youth ambassadors, writing bullying policies for the school systems, promoting cultural activities, communicating with local school boards on how to address suicide prevention in the school systems, hosting fundraising events, local proclamations that show community commitment to suicide prevention and reduction, organizing talking circles/healing circles, and hosting postvention activities. “We, as a task force, and organizations can move forward with a plan, but we need our communities to take ownership and help us address this difficult subject. We cannot heal unless we do this together,” said Wilbur Brown Jr., SEARHC Behavioral Health/Suicide Prevention Program Manager. The SEARHC Behavioral Health Prevention team is helping communities coordinate suicide prevention/intervention training, such as “Gatekeeper” and “safeTALK.” Earlier this year, the SEARHC Behavioral Health Division’s Community Family Services program began teaching and will continue teaching the Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) in SEARHC communities. The task force also discussed a variety of community initiatives for the future, such as getting funding for a canoe or canoes to be launched in all communities as the symbol of a journey of discovery and healing, a scholarship program for youth ambassadors, hosting 5K runs/walks for hope or memory, postvention activities, seeking sponsorship at this year’s Gold Medal basketball tournament, and raising community awareness from the state trooper/law enforcement perspective about issues related to the involuntary commitment of those individuals who are reasonably believed to present a likelihood of serious harm to self or others. Earlier this year SEARHC launched the SEARHC Help Line (1-877-294-0094), a crisis line available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to Southeast residents who just need to talk to someone. A social marketing campaign has been started with SEARHC Help Line business cards, posters, fliers and incentives. The campaign also features informational talks with community groups, presentations at community functions and word of mouth.