Suicide Prevention Awareness Month Activities – Tell Your Heart Story
If you are having suicidal thoughts, call 988 the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.
To honor September as Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium invites all Alaskans to join wellness activities that focus on self-care, creating connections to improve your overall mental health and how to help yourself and others who may be having thoughts of suicide and experiencing a mental health crisis.
Join and complete our survey below for a chance to win a $100 visa gift card!
Participating also reminds us of the new, easy-to-remember number in suicide prevention: 988. Call or text 988 to connect to the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.
Hope, help and strength: activities for prevention
What We Will Learn
What We Will Learn
The importance of connecting with the strengths in your life.
Creating mental health well-being in your daily routine.
Using self-care and coping skills to overcome challenges.
Where to find resources.
Support system: gathering circles, family, mentor
Having healthy relationships helps us during stressful times in our lives. These social connections may include our hunting and gathering circles. This type of support helps build feelings of connectedness and share our traditional foods and good medicine.
All families are unique and different. You may have support from your immediate (mom, dad, sibling), extended (grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins) or chosen family (not related by blood but you call family).
Having a mentor, or an Elder who you trust is extremely protective. Our Elders help connect our families, communities, and cultures by sharing their knowledge, language and wisdom.
Creating a system of support provides you with strength and protection when you may be experiencing hurt or pain. Remember to reach out to them and tell your heart story.
Mental Health Well-being
Including healthy activities into your daily life impacts your overall mental, physical, spiritual and emotional wellness.
Generosity is the practice of helping others, volunteering, or donating, and as simple as a random act of kindness. Generosity is giving your Elders your first catch, and helps build community wellness.
Physical health is caring for your body on a regular basis, especially when you are sick, hurt, or in crisis. Activities include eating traditional foods, getting quality sleep, drinking 8 cups of water a day, exercising for at least 30 minutes a day, and having access to medical care when sick or hurt.
Mental health is as important as physical health. Throughout life we all have ups and downs that can create hurt or pain. To navigate the hurt and pain, reach out to your support system, and if needed, call the number 988 to reach the suicide and crisis line. Help is there when you need it.
Spirituality helps us feel connected to something bigger than ourselves. Practicing our spirituality and traditional activities may create emotions of peace, gratitude, and acceptance. Traditional activities such as beading, art, hunting, berry picking, song, dance, and drumming have been used in ceremonies for all Alaska Native and American Indian People. This type of connection provides a sense of harmony and balance.
Coping skills and self-care
Coping skills are activities or behaviors that help us overcome challenges. Traditional activities like hunting, song and dance, and even using humor are skills our ancestors have taught us. We use these skills to help manage stressful situations or overwhelming emotions.
Self-care activities are deliberate and purposeful actions we take to be healthy and to heal. These activities help reduce stress, increase self-worth, self-esteem and feelings of belonging. Self-care can be as easy as taking a 30-minute walk outdoors, or creating a traditional music playlist. Engaging in self-care on a regular basis helps us to maintain our mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional wellness.
Activity – We are asking participants to join:
9 activities that are skills-based, connect the strengths in your life, and help create a support system within your community.
8 self-care activities that help build mental health wellness in your daily routine, create ways to take care of yourself during challenging experiences, and how to encourage family and friends to do the same.
8 words in your Alaska Native or American Indian language, or another language, that helps to describe how you feel about engaging in the strength-based and self-care activities.
Once you complete the Tell Your Heart Story Month Survey, you will be entered to win a $100 gift card!
Strength activities are particularly focused on connecting people back to their culture and creating a support system within their communities.
What we will learn:
Gain a new self-care skill
Connect with the strengths in your life
Create a support system within your community
Instructions: Choose nine activities from the categories below. This could be nine activities in the same category or a combination. Please share your takeaways from these activities in the survey.
Strengths: Teaches how to nurture something, monitors the changes of the plant and determines a routine for the plant.
Mental Health: As the plant grows strong, a connection to the plant as its provider also grows.
Support System: Once the plant is grown, youth can share with an Elder or community member or the plants can be kept at a community garden for a collective experience.
Strengths: Helps identify emotions/behaviors through acting out or guessing different prompts.
Mental Health: The emotions and behaviors that are acted out become more normalized and allow the participants to feel less isolated when they feel these feelings or demonstrate these behaviors.
Support System: Involve your family, community members, or Elders to help understand complex emotions and behavior with challenging situations.
CREATE 988 POSTERS OR FLYERS
Strengths: Spreads the word about the 988 mental health crisis hotline.
Mental Health: 988 is a great and super easy-to-access resource for all mental health crises.
Community Involvement: Ask kids across age groups to create their own flyers at home highlighting 988 and have them post either at home or in communal areas. Have a competition where the winning poster design gets posted up in a school, church, store or other communal areas.
Strengths: Make or teach someone to make your favorite traditional foods. Food brings people together, during both the cooking and eating processes.
Mental Health: Food brings energy, wellness and health into our lives. Cooking provides a mind-body connection when preparing nutritious meals. Choose traditional plants or subsistence foods like fish, whale, and moose meat that have their own special nutrients. Learn about the traditional/local foods right outside your door.
Support System: Elders can share traditional recipes and talk about subsistence practices. Community gardeners/hunters/farmers can share their local food. People can share their favorite foods and reflect on the history that food can bring.
Strengths: Teaches how to communicate, especially listening skills, with members of the community. Sheds light on the areas of support that might be lacking within the community.
Connection to Mental Health: Encourages a culture of being open and honest about one’s feelings within the community. Lessens feelings of loneliness and creates a support system.
Support System: Elders can tell stories related to resilience and strength. Voices across generations can bring their perspectives. (Note: Facilitated by peers or members of the community – NOT by someone outside the community).
STICKY NOTE/ANONYMOUS NOTES
Strengths: Teaches how to give a compliment/positive message or encourage someone. Teaches people to lean on the uplifting voices within your community.
Mental Health: Provides a support system within your community. Shifts thinking to strength and positivity based.
Support System: Everyone in the community can write positive notes and put them up in communal areas to promote a culture of support and positivity.
PEER TO PEER SUPPORT GROUPS
Strengths: Peer leaders gain the skills to advocate for their peers and find resources for them. Peers learn how to identify risks and signs of suicidal behavior on their own. They also learn about specific triggers or situations that affect their peers the most.
Mental Health: Reporting your own signs/risks for suicide to an adult can be hard and cause even more distress and anxiety. Confiding in a peer can feel easier and take pressure off having to talk to an adult.
Support System: Support groups are open to anyone and everyone in the community with the goal of creating strategies for effective reporting and support systems.
Strengths: Express one’s feelings and thoughts on a regular basis. Teaches how to recognize how one is feeling and why/where those feelings stem from. Download the Daily Journal – One Week template.
Mental Health: Brings the uncomfortable feelings people may have to light and encourages people to face those feelings by self-identification. A journal is a safe place to express all thoughts without having to worry about having to directly express them to another person.
Support System: Community members can encourage each other and normalize journaling as a part of everyday life.
ARTS AND CRAFTS
Strengths: Teaches how to express and nonverbally communicate one’s feelings and thoughts through art. Can also teach a strategy for self-care or a traditional art skill.
Mental Health: Art provides an outlet for mental distress. Traditional arts and crafts can also help people to feel closer to their culture.
Community Involvement: Community members or Elders can teach a lesson on how to do traditional art such as weaving, beading, pottery, drawing, sewing and painting. Community events can be held to hold art classes. Arts and crafts can be gifted to Elders or other mentors in the community.
We all face unique challenges that have been a part of creating our life story. We have lives that are filled with moments of joy, moments of pain, and everything in between. Tell a story of what provides you hope, help, and strength to continue your life story.
You can illustrate each page and assemble it to look like a book.
Instructions: Choose eight activities from the categories below. This could be eight activities in the same category or a combination. Please share your takeaways from these activities in the survey.
Self-Care Activities Examples:
Strengths: Learn to develop a morning routine that will mentally prepare you for each day. Do breathing exercises, stretch, drink water, journal, words of affirmation, etc.
Mental Health: Start each day with a fresh mindset to release stress and find a bright spot in your day.
Support System: Share your routine with others and discuss how you like to start your day. Make breakfast with family or tell them you are thankful for them each morning.
GO THROUGH OLD PHOTO ALBUMS
Strengths: Learn about family history. Ask about the people and places in the photos.
Mental Health: Strengthen family ties by going through old photos and having family explain the stories behind the photos.
Support System: Learn about the history of your community through photos and try to compare your sense of community now with what it is in the photos.
MAKE A MUSIC PLAYLIST
Strengths: Find music that makes you feel good.
Mental Health: Listening to upbeat music makes you feel more energized and positive.
Support System: Send a good mood playlist to friends/family and ask them to make you one too.
PARTICIPATE IN PHYSICAL ACTIVITIES
Strengths: Get active and learn how to relieve stress/anxiety by keeping your body strong and healthy. Learn new skills, a traditional game, sport or dance.
Mental Health: Physical activity/health is directly linked with mental health, so moving your body creates a clearer mind. Endorphins release when you are active which relieves stress.
Support System: Share your favorite physical activities with your friends and family. (NOTE: Explore nature!)
BUILD YOUR COPING TOOLBOX
Strengths: Healthy coping skills help us deal with difficult situations and emotions. Create a list of the tools you have already in your toolbox, like breathing exercise, calling a friend, and going for a walk. Add one or two new skills to your toolbox.
Mental Health: Healthy coping strategies help soothe, temporarily distract or help you tolerate distress.
Support System: Encourage others to build their coping toolbox.
BUILD OR GROW YOUR SUPPORT SYSTEM
Strengths: Provides strength and protection when you may be experiencing hurt and pain. Create a list of people you can lean on and your support resources. Connect with others through shared hobbies or volunteering. Connect with new resources such as the ANTHC Behavioral Health Wellness Clinic.
Mental Health: Social connection increases our happiness. Leads to better health and a longer life.
Support System: Encourage others to build or grow their support system.
SPEND TIME WITH ANIMALS
Strengths: Has a calming effect on our emotions. Spend 15 mindful minutes with an animal by sitting with them and thank them for their company.
Mental Health: Decreases stress hormones, depression, loneliness and increases comfort.
Support System: Encourage others to spend time with animals.
Strengths: Allows us to think about what we have that helps us. Each day of the week, write down one to three things you are thankful for.
Mental Health: Decreases stress and anxiety, increases happiness, optimism, makes us more resilient, improves sleep, strengthens relationships and makes us kinder.
Support System: Encourage others to do the same.
GET QUALITY SLEEP
Strengths: Improves our mood, ability to learn and make memories, organ health, immune system and other body functions. Turn off technology, brush your teeth, listen to calming music and stretch for 20 minutes before bed.
Mental Health: With quality sleep the brain and body have an opportunity to be cleansed and repaired.
Support System: Share with others how quality sleep improves your mood.
TAKE CARE WITH NUTRITIOUS FOODS
Strengths: Keep your body, spirit and mind healthy. Eat a variety of traditional foods: fish, caribou, moose, sea greens and berries.
Mental Health: Boosts energy, lowers risk of certain disease, fuels the brain, counteract the impacts of stress and affects mood-related body chemicals.
Support System: Share with others in the community the benefits of eating well.
PARTICIPATE IN ONE OR MORE TRADITIONAL ACTIVITIES
Strengths: Enhance cultural identity, self-concept and increase self-esteem while creating connectedness to body, mind, spirit and community.
Mental Health: Create balance with our spiritual, emotional, physical and mental wellness.
Support System: Encourage others to participate in traditional activities as a way to connect with each other.
Strengths: Create a poster that shows how you overcame the major stressors in your life. The poster should be unique to you and remind you of the positives in your life that outweigh the negatives. (Poster example here).
Mental Health: Use your favorite colors, and images that make you smile. Include words, or drawings about your stressors. Put this poster somewhere that only you can see, like in your room or bathroom where you can see those positive images every day.
Support System: Encourage others to make their own posters.
WORDS IN YOUR NATIVE LANGUAGE
What we will learn: Words used to describe feelings.
Encourage family and friends to do the same.
Instructions: Use eight words in your Alaska Native or American Indian language, or another language, that helps to describe how you feel about engaging in the strength-building and self-care activities. Download the ANTHC BHWC Thought Record handout to track your thoughts. Please share your takeaways from these activities in the survey.
Strengths: Using our Alaska Native or American Indian language, or another language, connects us to the land, family, friends, community and extends our knowledge to future generations.
Mental Health: Language provides knowledge, insights, values, practices and ways of life, as well as a sense of belonging. This is important to our health and wellness.
Support System: Encourage others to use their Alaska Native or American Indian language, or another language, to express their feelings.
Our support systems, mental health well-being, coping skills and self-care help us face adversity or challenges. During those times, we may need to reach out to different resources for help. Building on our own strengths help us so that we may help others who may be having thoughts of suicide or a mental health crisis.
988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline offers 24/7 access to trained crisis counselors who can help people experiencing mental health-related distress. That could be:
Thoughts of suicide
Mental health or substance use crisis, or
Any other kind of emotional distress
Call or text 988 or chat 988lifeline.org, you can call for yourself or if you are worried about a loved one who may need crisis support.
In Alaska, if you are calling from a 907 area code, 988 connects you to the Alaska Careline, a member of the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. Careline is still active to help 24/7. Call 1-877-266-4357 (HELP) or text 4help to 839863 to speak to a trained counselor.
The ANTHC Behavioral Health Wellness Clinic also offers telehealth counseling, assessments and referral support to adult beneficiaries anywhere in Alaska. You can access our care from your personal cell phone or computer. To learn more or become a client, visit https://www.anthc.org/bhwc or call (907) 729-2492 Monday-Friday from 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.
Information presented in this post may provoke strong emotions to some people as it pertains to suicide. Please proceed with caution.