Coming together to reduce suicide

ANTHC and regional tribal injury prevention and behavioral health programs have been working together since December 2007 to address suicide and suicide attempts among the Alaska Native people.

These behavioral health and injury prevention programs developed an Alaska Native Suicide Prevention Initiative, which was approved and adopted by the Alaska Native Health Board in 2009.  An update of the initiative was generated in the fall of 2010, after many suicide prevention activities were initiated.

By 2015, ANTHC, in collaboration with the Alaska Tribal Health System, is working to reduce the number of suicides and suicide attempts among Alaska Native people by 15 percent.

 Approximately 50 Alaska Native people die by suicide each year

  • That's an average of about one every eight days.
  • Three out of four Alaska Native suicide deaths are males.
  • Suicide rates in the Northwest Arctic, the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, Arctic Slope and Norton Sound areas are the highest in the state.
  • Young Alaska Native males aged 15-24 are almost nine times as likely to die as all U.S. males in this age group.
  • Alaska Native females aged 15-24 are nineteen  times as likely to die as all U.S. females in this age group.

What are we doing already?



The Injury Prevention and Behavioral Health staff at ANTHC can also provide shorter suicide preventions trainings, developed by LivingWorks: SuicideTALK and SafeTALK.   These trainings raise awareness about suicide risks and provide participants with basic intervention tools.



Injury Prevention funds and participates in helping regional tribal health organizations implement the Community Readiness Model. This can be used to assess the community's level of preparedness for suicide prevention and intervention.



Reducing the access to lethal means has been shown to be an effective strategy in reducing suicide and suicide attempts. 

Most Alaska Native suicides (2 out of 3) are completed with a firearm. 

  • To reduce firearm-related injuries, ANTHC collaborated with YKHC, BBAHC, and the Harborview Injury Prevention Center on a safe firearm storage project from 2006 to 2009. 
    • Teams installed gun lockers and provided safe firearm storage education to communities in Southwestern Alaska. 
    • Eighteen months after installation, safe firearm storage had increased significantly in these communities. 
    • Homeowners appreciated the lockers and some used them for secure medication storage as well.
  • Progress of regional gun safe projects::
    • In 2009, one regional Tribal Health Organization (THO) had a gun safe project, installing 6 gun safes, with the cooperation of the Housing Authority, into homes.
    • In 2010, two THOs had gun safe projects, providing 66 gunsafes for new homes.  The Housing Authorities for those regions paid transport and installation costs.  One Housing Authority re-designed the home floorplan to better accommodate the gun safe.
    • In 2011, four THOs had projects that provided 306 gun safes to several communities, some projects specifically focusing on families with children and youth.

The most common method used for Alaska Native suicide attempts is overdose of medication.  Regional injury prevention projects also include installing locking medicine cabinets or demonstrating how gun safes can also be used for safe storage of medication.  

4000 Ambassador Drive ¤ Anchorage, AK 99508 ¤ 907-729-1900 Fax: 907-729-1901