The Alaska Chapter of the AFSP holds candle vigil at the Capitol building

    Photo by Jordan Lewis

    Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - The Alaska Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention held a candle vigil at the Capitol Building on Tuesday night.

    Amidst cold temperatures and wind, a small group gathered to hold a vigil. 220 Candles were placed on the steps of the capital building, a number symbolic of a statistic.

    According to Vital Statistics and the CDC, Alaska had 220 deaths occur due to suicide in 2021, an increase of 16 deaths compared to 2020. The Alaska Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention hosted the vigil as a lead-in to their advocacy work on March 15th and 16th. 

    Dustin Morris is the Statewide Area Director for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Alaska chapter. Morris spoke with News of the North shortly before the vigil began.

    "Every year, the Alaska chapter descends or comes to the Capitol in some form, whether that's virtual or in present, to in person to talk to our legislators about the issue of suicide in our state, it's a leading cause of death," Morris said. 

    "There's lots that can be done to help prevent that. And public policy is a big part of that process."

    This is the chapter's eighth year of advocating to the Alaska Legislature for increased awareness around mental health and suicide prevention.

    This year's vigil had some candles colored blue in order to bring attention to veteran suicides.

    "So this year, we're really pointing out the occurrence of veteran suicide, we have the highest occurrence of veteran suicide on record for the state of Alaska. There were 42 veterans that died in 2021, which is the most current data that we have provided by vital statistics and the CDC," Morris said.

    Among the Attendees were Representative Genevieve Mina, of House District 19, and Senator Matt Claman who both spoke at the vigil. 

    The Woosh.ji.een Dancers also performed a blessing song as part of the vigil.

    (Photo by Jordan Lewis)

    (Photo by Jordan Lewis)

    If you or someone you know is struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts, you can call the national suicide and crisis lifeline at 988.

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