Suicide prevention efforts provide essential services for all Alaskans. Suicide is one of the top 10 causes of death in Alaska, with the age-adjusted rate of suicide at 26.9 per 100,000 in 2017, which is approximately 86% greater than the U.S. rate (14.5 per 100,000). In the State Health Assessment, respondents to both surveys and listening sessions indicated that mental health is a topic of high concern for Alaskans and that there is a great need for suicide prevention services across the state. We also see considerable health disparities in suicide. The most recent Healthy Alaskans 2020 scorecards show that in 2017, for 15-24 year olds All Alaskans had a suicide mortality rate of 46.6 per 100,000 and Alaska Native people had a suicide mortality rate of 103.3 per 100,000.
For 2030, suicide prevention is a priority health topic as well as a specific health objective due to the fact that the HA2020 suicide prevention targets for the age groups 15-24 and 25 and up had not been met, indicating that more work will need to be done. The rates of suicide mortality are highest in the age range 15-25 which crosses over the age range of the two previous indicators. Therefore, the HA2030 teams made the decision to combine the previous indicators into a single suicide prevention health objective with one target. Strategies were then created to address the different risk factors for the different age groups. It will take the coordinated implementation of the recommended strategies and actions related to suicide, mental health, and protective factors to meet the targets for all three areas.
The State of Alaska Suicide prevention plan was developed through input from stakeholders and is aligned with the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention and the Alaska Native National Suicide Prevention Strategic Plan (2011-2015). State of Alaska Suicide Prevention Plan: Recasting the Net, Promoting Wellness to Prevent Suicide in Alaska 2018-2022
Identifying people at risk of suicide and the continued provision of treatment and support for these individuals can positively impact suicide and its associated risk factors. Preventing Suicide: A Technical Package of Policy, Programs and Practices (2017): https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/suicidetechnicalpackage.pdf
In February 2016, the Joint Commission, the accrediting organization for health care programs in hospitals throughout the United States, issued a Sentinel Event Alert recommending that all medical patients in all medical settings (inpatient hospital units, outpatient practices, emergency departments) be screened for suicide risk. Using valid suicide risk screening tools that have been tested in the medical setting and with youth, will help clinicians accurately detect who is at risk and who needs further intervention.
“The Zero Suicide framework is a system-wide, organizational commitment to safer suicide care in health and behavioral health care systems.” https://zerosuicide.edc.org/
National Strategy for Suicide PreventionWeb link: https://theactionalliance.org/our-strategy/national-strategy-suicide-prevention
Alaska has many groups working on mitigating ACEs, trauma prevention, and community resilience & wellness. For more information on this and other resources, and updates on what is happening around the state, visit the “Overcoming ACEs in Alaska” website, www.dhss.alaska.gov/abada/ace-ak.The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention hosts the website for the Adverse Childhood Experiences study: http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/acestudy/index.htmlDube, S.R., Anda, R.F., Felitti, V.J., Chapman, D., Williamson, D.F., Giles, W.H. (2001) Childhood abuse, household dysfunction and the risk of attempted suicide throughout the life span: Findings from Adverse Childhood Experiences Study JAMA 2001;286:3089–3096Vulnerable populations tend to experience suicidal behavior at higher than average rates. Such vulnerable populations include: low socioeconomic status and living with a mental health problem, people who have previously attempted suicide, Veterans and active duty military, individuals who are institutionalized, have been victims of violence, or are homeless, individuals of a sexual minority status, and members of certain racial and ethnic minority groups.https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/suicidetechnicalpackage.pdf
The research and practices related to increasing protective factors to impact adolescent health and development are summarized in: Addressing a Crisis: Cross Sector Strategies to Prevent Adolescent Substance Use and Suicide (2019); Fostering Healthy Mental, Emotional and Behavioral Development in Children and Youth: A National Agenda (2019); Connecting the Dots: An Overview of the Links among Multiple Forms of Violence (2014); School Connectedness: Strategies for Increasing Protective Factors among Youth (2006), Shared Risk and Protective Factors Impacting Adolescent Behavior and Development (2019). Research related to risk and protective factors for suicide are summarized in Preventing Suicide: A Technical Package of Policy, Programs and Practices (2017) SPRC – protective factors.
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