Suicide Prevention Activity using our Subsistence Lifestyle

by Althea Jackson

Waqaa, my name is Althea Jackson. I am the new Suicide Prevention Coordinator for Akiachak Native Community under the SAMHSA Native Connections grant, also known as the Qigcikiyaraq Pinariuq (it’s time for respect) grant.

I recently started in the beginning of January and our first year is the planning process. On the side, I did a Suicide Awareness Cake Walk fundraiser which was my first involvement with the youth to take on a fishing trip to Johnson River over the weekend which was a success.

There were a few people that donated cakes and not that many people came to the cake walk but a few people donated money for gas which made the trip happen. I would like to acknowledge those that helped make the trip happen: my daughter Makayla baked two cakes; Sophie Kasayulie donated her time to help me do the cake walk and brought a cake; Mary M. Peter an elder of Akiachak, Norman George and Freda Nose also donated a cake; Anna Davidson, Moses & Molly Paine, Georgiann Wassilie and myself donated money for gas; AC Company donated a gift card; Sammy’s Market donated a case of drinks; and Matthew & Katherine Wassilie and Henry & Myra Pasitnak for willing to take two loads of youth/parents.

We had a total of 17 people that went on the trip. The youth had a really good time and for some they got their first catch! Everyone had a good time despite how windy and cold it was. Since we didn’t have enough manaq holes we all took turns which worked out pretty good.

Suicide is a very hard subject to talk about but its reality and I think that’s one reason why people don’t like to get involved when it comes to that subject because it hurts and affects everyone. We as a community need to become aware of those that are at risk of suicide and work together to prevent it.

When you know someone is at risk in your family, please don’t be afraid to reach out for help to the police, health aides, counselors, and/or suicide prevention workers.

There was a recent suicide in our village which was so hard for me. Even though it’s a learning experience for me, I really wish we did something to prevent it. I lost my baby brother at age 16 to suicide back in 2003 and lost so many cousins afterwards. Suicide happens when we least expect it and that’s why it hurts the most and it takes a long time to grieve.

Some of us don’t know who we can turn to for help, some of us are embarrassed to ask for help and most of us don’t know how to cope and deal with our issues so we easily give up. I myself am a survivor of attempting suicide and dealt with a couple of my own children that attempted suicide. It’s so easy to give up on life and its everyday problems.

The way I overcame this problem was getting the help I needed. I attended Healthy Families with AVCP and YKHC which were the best cultural based healing process; and took Rural Human Services class with KUC. I tried getting counseling with a clinician in the past but it didn’t seem to be working for me so I tried attending Healthy Families; being around family and friends for support and keeping busy doing subsistence. Self-care such as taking steams, taking walks outdoors, having alone time as needed, working out, doing crafts and helping others helped me a lot.

Before all the self-help I done, I turned to alcohol and smoking marijuana to numb the pain. It only made everything worse with my depression and anxiety. Pretty soon all I wanted to do was stay in bed and sleep. I was making unhealthy choices but I decided to make better changes for myself and my children. Change doesn’t happen overnight, it takes ONE DAY AT A TIME.

There aren’t any youth activities in our village and that’s why they’re turning to alcohol and marijuana. Because of that, I decided to do a little fundraiser to take them out fishing this past Saturday. Using our Subsistence Way of Life is one way to help keep them busy positively and in a healthier way. I look forward to doing more subsistence activities with the youth in our community to help prevent suicides and substance abuse.

I want to thank those that participated and donated in this event. Quyana cakneq!