ANCHORAGE, Alaska—Over the last ten years, millions of dollars have been spent to reduce the number of suicides in the state, which are still at epidemic levels.
A report from the state’s Suicide Prevention Council is discouraging to those on the front lines of Alaska's suicide epidemic, but they also say it makes them want to redouble their efforts.
For injury deaths in Alaska, it is the leading cause of death.
From 2006 to 2008, Alaska lost almost 450 people to suicide. That’s more than twice the number of those who died in car crashes.
During a nine-year period ending in 2009, more than 1,300 Alaskans took their lives.
Most of those deaths did not involve Alaska Natives, yet compared to the overall population, their numbers are disproportionate.
Suicide experts say the numbers hit Alaska Natives hard, because they have more risk factors and until we deal with those, it will be difficult to reverse the suicide rate.
The remoteness of rural communities compounds the problem and makes responding to suicide outbreaks and preventing them all the more challenging.
Even so, those working to reduce the rate say money spent for education and behavioral health aides is well spent.
The important thing, they say, is to keep talking about this issue.
"We can have classes that are very general, an hour long, where people practice saying the word suicide, because it has been such a taboo for so many years. The important thing we want them to remember is that by not talking about it, it's not stopping it,” said Helen Stafford, Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium.