Alaskan recognized with National Award for Suicide Prevention Advocacy

Suicide is the fifth leading cause of death overall in Alaska. To create awareness and honor those working to prevent this tragic loss of life, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention presented volunteer advocate and Alaskan resident Jim Biela with the national Sandy Martin Grassroots Award at the annual Allies in Action Awards reception on Sunday, June 11 in Washington, D.C. As a leader in the award winning AFSP Alaskan Chapter, Mr. Biela was recognized for his leadership in suicide prevention and mental health.

“I’m thrilled to present Jim with this award which recognizes a true Alaskan hero for his work harnessing the power of many voices to make great strides in our policy efforts there. On a trip I made to Alaska this past March, I was able to see first-hand the true difference Jim’s work has made in such a short time. He is a true lifesaver and grassroots leader in AFSP’s mission to save lives and bring hope to those affected by suicide,” said John Madigan, vice president of public policy for AFSP.

Jim Biela has dedicated his talents to counseling children and teens. He founded the Alaska Chapter of Suicide Prevention and continues to promote suicide prevention both personally and professionally throughout the state. One of his major focus areas has been working with a number of villages in the Yukon Kuskokwim Delta. This award also recognizes Biela for his work in forming a grassroots team to provide outreach and education to the Alaska House of Representatives, Alaska Senate, and to the Governor.

Over 200 advocates from AFSP, from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, were present to acknowledge the work of this life saving champion. The advocates were in Washington, D.C. for four days to meet with their members of Congress to encourage them to invest in mental health and suicide prevention. The awards program included volunteers who have lost loved ones to suicide or who have their own lived experience with a suicide attempt, along with mental health professionals, suicide prevention allies, members of Congress and their staff, advocacy groups, and other leaders in the field. In January 2017, AFSP awarded the Alaska Chapter the prestigious “Chapter of the Year” award.

Suicide in Alaska

Suicide is the fifth leading cause of death overall in Alaska. For people aged 10-24 in Alaska, it is the leading cause of death. For those aged 25-44, it is the second leading cause of death. On average one person dies by suicide every two days in the state. More than three times as many people die by suicide in Alaskans annually than by homicide.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is dedicated to saving lives and bringing hope to those affected by suicide. AFSP creates a culture that’s smart about mental health through education and community programs, develops suicide prevention through research and advocacy, and provides support for those affected by suicide.