The rate of suicide among Alaska’s youth is alarming. Alaska’s Department of Health and Social Services released a report in October 2020 showing Alaska’s annual adolescent suicide rate is 3.2 times higher than the national average.
As of the 2020 report, suicide was the leading cause of death among Alaska’s teens over the age of 15. Alaska’s adolescent suicide rate has been about three times higher than the national average for a few years. Between 2016 and 2019, DHSS identified 90 adolescent suicides. The Alaska Native population is the hardest hit. The rate among Alaska Native teens nearly doubled from 2018 to 2019.
Suicidal thoughts can be caused by several factors like stress, poverty, depression, trauma, mental health and substance misuse. While the state hasn’t released any statistics about how the pandemic affected the rate of suicide, all indications are that it’s made the problem even worse.
Juneau’s Bartlett Regional Hospital saw a sharp increase in psychiatric ER visits. Before the pandemic, the facility saw an average of four teens per month. But the pandemic caused that number to go way up. From June 2020 to September 2020, an average of 14 teens visited the psychiatric ER every month. The majority of teens said during their visit that this was their first time experiencing a mental or behavioral health crisis. They reported increased feelings of depression, anxiety and substance misuse due to the stressors associated with COVID-19.
When it comes to suicide, it’s important to also talk about the survivors. While Alaska’s rates might be alarming, there are also hundreds of success stories. Teens who got the help they needed. There are many resources available to help.
For an immediate mental health emergency call 911.
The Alaska Careline Crisis Intervention number is (907) 2LISTEN