The Western Alaska communities that your support enables KNOM to serve face a unique set of challenges — many of them severe. Among the most heartbreakingly persistent of our region’s woes are the related issues of isolation, poor mental health, and suicide, particularly among teenagers and young adults.
Many of the organizations and schools in rural Alaska are taking steps to combat the staggeringly high rates of depression and suicide in our corner of the world, and through your support, we’re doing all we can to help.
One recent example this autumn has been our reporting on a unique, powerful leadership retreat that took place in Unalakleet (YOU-nuh-luh-cleet), Alaska, a community located on the coast of the eastern Norton Sound (which some readers may recognize as one of the checkpoints of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race). Organized by regional school districts, the event gathered local youth to learn from a series of impactful speakers and teachers, who emphasized mutual communication, self-esteem, and concrete steps for suicide prevention.
As our on-site reporter, volunteer Laura Kraegel, describes, the students tackled these difficult subjects with aplomb:
At a recent youth retreat in Unalakleet, I sat in on student workshops covering suicide prevention, gender dynamics, racial representation, and school culture. All weighty, complex topics that give most adults a tough time. All topics that I find tricky to cover in my reporting.
But throughout the weekend, no matter the subject, I saw youth leaders dive into discussions with great intelligence and care.
They asked thoughtful questions. They shared personal stories. And they always seemed to have fun doing it — making new friends from different schools, and then supporting their peers through every icebreaker and share circle.
It was a wonderful reminder that while there are challenges in our communities, we’re working through them — with each generation bringing new insight.
We thank you for enabling us to bring these crucially important stories to a wider audience. Especially with regards to the subjects this youth retreat addressed — mental health and suicide prevention — the need to serve our region could not be more urgent or vital. Your generosity makes such an incredible difference.
Photos: scenes from throughout the Unalakleet retreat, including a board of the students’ future goals and aspirations for the event. (Photo credit: Laura Kraegel, KNOM.)