October 21, 2015
The following is an open letter to the community from Superintendent Ed Graff.
I’d like to take a moment to talk about something that needs to be openly discussed in our community, and every community in the state.
Suicide – it’s an epidemic and we need to have ongoing conversations about how to prevent it.
While the death this weekend wasn’t directly connected to the Anchorage School District, suicide has a big impact on our lives.
We’ve seen the news about the rash of deaths in villages statewide. As a young boy, I lived in one of those villages and I can’t help but feel connected.
I can only imagine what their families are going though. It’s a heartbreaking pain that no one should feel, ever.
This is such a difficult time and many of us at ASD are keeping them in our thoughts.
Sometimes life can be tough: it is for everyone at one point or another.
But we have to let people know that whatever they’re going through, there is help for them.
This includes our students. We care deeply about each and every one of them.
The sad truth is that we deal with suicide risk factors too often in our schools.
ASD staff have made a positive difference in many students’ lives because they saw signs of concern and sought help for the students before it was too late.
All of our schools are staffed with caring adults who are there to help.
Our teachers receive training on suicide prevention and how to identify warning signs.
Our school websites, newsletters and student posters, fliers and handouts offer information on suicide prevention.
But it’s still not enough.
Any life lost to suicide is one too many.
We need to do more in our community and in support of our families.
In ASD, we build social and emotional learning into everything we do. It helps students understand how they feel and how to manage those feelings. It also helps students recognize how that looks socially and how to address it. Additionally, our culturally responsive curriculum is designed to show students how we are all an important part of our school community. This support is critical.
We need everyone in our community across the state to let people know that every life matters. Every life is important.
I plead with each one of us not to let the discussion fade when the news headlines do.
We must continue the conversation about how to address this epidemic, and associated mental health concerns, and take action.
If you suspect any concerns, reach out to that person, let them know you care, or immediately contact someone who can help.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (24 hours a day): 1-800-273-TALK (800-273-8255)
Anchorage Emergency Crisis Hotline: 563-3200 (24 hours a day)
Careline: 1-877-266-HELP (877-266-4357)
Anchorage Community Mental Health: 563-1000
Alaska Native Medical Center: 729-3300
Good Samaritan Counseling Center: 565-4000
North Star Behavioral Health: 258-7575
Providence Psychiatric ER: 212-2800
Text 4help: 839863 (3-11 p.m. Tuesday – Saturday)
Alaska CARELINE www.carelinealaska.com
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention www.afsp.org
American Association of Suicidology www.suicidology.org
National Mental Health Association www.nmha.org
American Academy of Pediatrics www.aap.org
Or contact your child’s school psychologist, school counselor or school nurse.