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Discussion on suicide prevention stresses communication

(KTUU)
Published: Oct. 17, 2017 at 7:08 PM AKDT
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For five years the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has given a presentation at the Elders and Youth Conference. But this year its Alaska field ambassador changed the format after losing a friend of his own in Toksook Bay.

“I decided I really need to bring a different twist to this and it was basically bring the cultural traditions back because that could prevent suicide,” said James Biela.

A six member panel, each touched by suicide in some way, shared words of wisdom.

“One of the things I come across and I tell the teachers is treat a troubled children like they’re fragile, like they’re easy to break,” said Panigkaq Agatha John-Shields, an assistant professor at the University of Alaska Anchorage.

“This cultural evolution is never going to stop. So therefore we’re going to have to adapt to a lot of changes but we need to learn how to weed out the bad ones,” said Simeon John, Prevention Coordinator at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Every member agreed the topic of suicide must be discussed even though some consider it taboo. “If we don’t talk about it it’s going to continue even though it’s very difficult,” said John.

Biela said to look out for “the talk, the mood, and behaviors” indicators someone may be considering suicide and ask that person if they’re considering suicide.

“Suicide grows in isolation and darkness because people are afraid to talk about it. They’re afraid to express it,” Biela said.