In 2008 a Juneau School District Psychologist, Brendan Kiernan, applied for a grant from the State of Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, Division of Behavioral Health to fund implementation of a suicide prevention curriculum known as “Signs of Suicide” or SOS at all district high schools. Recognizing the need to ensure a continuity of services to students identified as at risk, as well as the importance of community-wide communication to address the problem of suicide in a comprehensive way, Brendan formed a community-level advisory group consisting of representatives from local agencies and concerned Juneau residents. This group became known as The Juneau Community Suicide Prevention Task Force.
Over the next three years, the Task Force successfully implemented the SOS curriculum in all Juneau high schools, began presenting a version of the curriculum to middle school students, developed suicide prevention brochures targeting specific at-risk groups, organized Suicide Gatekeeper and other trainings for agency support staff, developed www.juneausuicideprevention.org and www.juneaumentalhealth.org as online repositories of local resources, and developed a community-base suicide intervention curriculum known as Understanding Suicide: Building Intervention Skills.
In the Summer of 2011, Juneau Youth Services assumed responsibility for managing our state grant. We were able to add two behavioral health specialists to work within the middle schools and high schools to identify and assist high-risk students and provide training to school personnel. We also expanded our efforts to address “postvention” which includes supporting families and community members who are impacted by a completed suicide, and helping to mitigate the risk of further suicides. In addition, a community-based services coordinator was hired to coordinate community public awareness, training and postvention activities. In March of 2012, the Juneau Community Suicide Prevention Task Force voted to change its name to the Juneau Suicide Prevention Coalition in order to reflect the group’s broad-based and ongoing to its mission.
The Juneau Suicide Prevention Coalition is committed to reducing the loss and suffering caused by suicide and suicidal behavior in Juneau. The Coalition offers information and education about issues relating to suicide, as well as support to families and community members who have lost loved ones to suicide. It is our hope that through our efforts we can lessen the incidence of suicide and the stigma associated with suicide and suicide loss.
The Juneau Suicide Prevention Coalition is comprised of the following committees:
- Steering Committee: This committee meets monthly and its main purpose is to share information among Coalition members regarding our current efforts in suicide prevention, intervention and postvention.
- Training & Public Awareness Committee: This committee oversees the Coalition’s efforts to provide community-based education, training, and promotion activities related to suicide prevention and intervention.
- School-based Services Committee: This committee oversees the Coalition’s services in the middle and high schools including: educational presentations to students; identifying and assisting youth at risk for self-harm; and training to school personnel.
- Postvention Committee: This committee provides information and support to assist families and community members who have been impacted by a completed suicide and helps to prevent further suicides.
- To increase understanding of the nature of suicide and suicidal behavior.
- To increase recognition of the relationship between suicide to depression and other illnesses, and to alcohol, drugs, and other substances.
- To increase knowledge of the risk factors and warning signs of suicide and provide support to high-risk groups in the Juneau community.
- To increase the development and implementation of suicide prevention efforts in the Juneau community.
- To increase the capability to identify and help support suicidal individuals in the Juneau community.
- To increase the availability and use of crisis intervention and mental health resources by suicidal individuals and their loved ones.
- To live in a community where all individuals have a sense of belonging, connectedness to others, and value their lives.