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Murkowski To Convene Bethel Roundtable on Rural Youth Suicide


WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, will convene a roundtable conversation in Bethel on Monday to discuss how to combat and prevent youth suicide in the Yukon Kuskokwim Delta.

“Youth suicide is a very difficult and emotional issue to discuss but it is also a critical issue that we cannot ignore,” said Murkowski. “It deeply concerns me that rural Alaska, from the North Slope to the YK Delta, has some of the highest suicide rates in the nation. It takes tremendous courage and inner strength to address the most difficult issues within our communities, but we as Alaskans can no longer ignore the dark realities that exist within our society.”

Murkowski, a member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, will chair the roundtable discussion to gather perspectives on youth suicide in the YK Delta.

According to the Alaskan Bureau of Vital Statistics, Alaska has a suicide rate twice the national average, and several regions in Western Alaska experience suicide rates at roughly six times the national average. The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium has reported that between the years of 2004 and 2007, suicide was the leading cause of death for youth, ages 10-19, and it was the second leading cause of death for young adults, ages 20-39.

Roundtable participants are: Myron Naneng, President of the Association of Village Council Presidents; Gene Peltola, President of the Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation (YKHC); Jim Allen, Professor of Psychology, University of Alaska Fairbanks; Paula Ayunerak, YKHC Board Member from Alakanuk; William ‘Billy’ Charles, from Alakanuk, regional coordinator for Qungasvik Projects; Chris Mandregan, Alaska Area Director of the Indian Health Service; Sheila Cooper, Senior Advisor for Tribal Affairs at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration; Erin Bailey, Health Advisor with the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, and State Representatives Anna Fairclough and Berta Gardner, members of the Alaska Statewide Suicide Prevention Council. Gov. Sean Parnell will provide welcoming remarks.


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