Story last updated at 6/10/2009 - 1:36 pm
JUNEAU - Central Council Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska (Central Council), the State of Alaska, Department of Health and Social Services, Behavioral Health/Prevention and Early Intervention Services provided a Suicide Prevention Symposium June 1-2, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall in Juneau. The symposium was initiated to begin community suicide intervention/prevention planning.
President Bill Martin welcomed over 80 participants and guests that included Southeast tribal leaders, Central Council, State of Alaska, Alaska State Legislature, ANB Grand Camp, Sealaska, Sealaska Heritage Institute, SEARHC, and representatives from 14 Southeast communities including Angoon, Craig, Douglas, Hoonah, Juneau, Kake, Kasaan, Ketchikan, Klawock, Klukwan, Metlakatla, Petersburg, Wrangell, Yakutat and others.
Day one consisted of several participants sharing their stories and presentations. The presentations touched on suicide statistics, a Tlingit perspective of depression and suicide, myth vs. reality/common signs of suicide, reactions to grief and loss/acute traumatic events, and assessment and planning.
"Sometimes it is difficult to reach out for help, but as we saw in the two-day suicide prevention symposium, we are not alone, that we share the same sentiment that as Alaskan people we are resilient and we can move forward to a positive goal to help with suicide prevention in our respective communities," said Barbara Franks, Statewide Suicide Prevention Council, filling the seat of a family member who completed his suicide.
Day two offered participants key actions and essential discussion/interaction with Le Florendo facilitating "Developing a Community Plan for Youth at Risk." Task force members provided community leaders with information that was used to construct the shell of a plan that tribal leaders will now take back to their own communities to build customized intervention/prevention plans. A performance from the Woosh.ji.een dance group closed the symposium on a positive note.
"Central Council recognizes the need to bring this serious problem to the forefront," Martin said. "We have wanted to bring the Southeast communities together to address suicide prevention for a long time, but it wasn't until we received help from the State that we were able to do this. We hope to partner again with the State of Alaska to continue this important community suicide intervention and prevention planning. Statistically, each death touches tribal families - not only within their community, but within several communities."