Suicide in Alaska is a continuing problem. Per capita, the 49th state has continuously had the highest rate in the country by almost double. According to the American Association of Suicidology, more than 90% of those who die in this way have depression or another diagnosable, treatable mental or substance abuse disorder. Within the LGBTQ community this pgreater. The youth of our community contemplate suicide at a rate of almost three times higher than those that identify as heterosexual. Issues such as familial rejection, physical and verbal harassment and abuse, and spiritual abuse are all cited as reasons for a higher rate.
Identity Inc, along with staff members from Full Spectrum Health, have started a new community training titled Gatekeeper QPR Suicide Prevention Training. This has already been a seminar that is offered to youth during the Identity Youth Summit. On Tuesday July 31st, over 120 people had showed interest through a Facebook invite.
Normally when the term “gatekeeper” is used when speaking of the LGBTQ+ community, it is rarely seen as a good thing. In this instance it refers instead to being the first stepping stone towards getting proper care, as well as a source of support. QPR is the acronym for steps that should be taken in the instance that someone believes that a person may be about to engage in self harming behavior.
Question – ask the person questions and find out what is happening in their life; ask them directly if they are thinking about suicide (e.i. “Are you thinking about suicide?”). Persuade – try to persuade them to not attempt suicide and that there is help available. Refer – refer them to a resource that can further help them; it’s recommended to go with the person or call the resource together.
I was able to speak with Jess Greene and Dr. Tracey Weise of Full Spectrum Health about the training and what we as a community can do in these situations.
Prism - During the training that you were part of at Identity, were there positive moments among those who attended? This is a dark topic for many, and difficult to start a conversation about.
Jess – There were many positive moments for attendees. The first was that we were able to offer the training via distance to two people from Wrangell’s Community Roots LGBTQ+ community group. We want to continue to offer courses to anyone and everything in Alaska who is interested.
Attendees were also very vocal during the training. There were several individuals that spoke about their struggle with suicide. They were able to offer firsthand experience to how we can help those at-risk of suicide. I think this also helped other attendees feel comfortable talking about suicide. There were other individuals in the training that asked really important questions that generated a lot of discussion. One that I remember specifically was a discussion about what to do if you find you’re unable to provide intervention and how to cope with the negative self-thinking if you’re unable to help. That led into a topic of how to take care of yourself when providing interventions, especially if the person you helped still completes suicide.
Prism- The rates of suicide in Alaska are much higher than the national average, and the suicide rates of LGBTQ identified youth are three times that of their counterparts that identify as heterosexual. What are some ways that we as an adult community can help?
Tracey – Be aware, check in with family and friends, especially those that you know struggle with depression, mental health symptoms or suicidal thoughts. If a friend or family or community member demonstrates behavior that is concerning, don’t be afraid to talk to them directly about if they are considering suicide. Be aware of resources in your local community and have a couple of “go to” resources that you can provide, i.e. the local Psychiatric Emergency Department or crisis text or call line.
Prism-What other advice or instructions do you have for people who are worried about a loved one, friend, or acquaintance?
Jess- I would say try to utilize some of the techniques that QPR teaches. I would also urge people to educate themselves on how to help, whether that’s attending the next QPR training that Identity has (yes! There will be more!) or if it’s researching the topic yourself. Don’t be afraid to talk about suicide to help reduce the stigma and to help yourself become for comfortable with the topic.
Prism- What resources are available locally and nationally for those that may be having these thoughts or recognizing them in others?
Jess- There are local, state, and national help lines. The CareLine is the Alaska suicide prevention line. There is the National Suicide Hotline. In Anchorage, there are a variety of mental health services available. I would highlight utilizing 911 if you believe someone is going to harm themselves.
Anchorage Crisis Line (907) 563-3200
Providence Psych Emergency Room (907) 212-3111
Crisis Recover Center (907) 212-6240
National Crisis Lines:
The Trevor Project 1-(866) 488-7386
SAGE Elder Hotline 1-888-234-SAGE (7243)
National Suicide Prevention 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Crisis Text Line Text TALK TO 741741