Local non-profit advocates for suicide awareness in rural villages

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FAIRBANKS, Alaska - A non-profit from North Pole has been advocating for suicide prevention for over a decade in rural Alaska. Nahshii is Gwitch'in Athabaskan word for healing. Camp Nahshii is located 150 miles downriver from Circle Alaska, in a remote area between Beaver and Fort Yukon. Ron and Yolanda Pratt have been returning every summer to spread advocacy on suicide prevention in rural communities and villages.

"Camp Nahshii is a suicide prevention camp that we provide in the Yukon Flats region, and that region just so happens to be one of the hot spots in Alaska where suicide is just crazy numbers, and so we have to do something about it," said Ron Pratt.

According to the Alaska Bureau of Vital and Statistics, Alaska has the highest rate of suicides per-capita in the country. This is most predominant in rural and outlying communities. Youth who are exposed to suicide or suicidal behaviors are more at-risk for attempting suicide, according to the American Association of Suicidology. The Pratt's say that establishing a sense of self-worth is important in youth, and it carries with them when they become adults and have children.

"Our mission is to get young people, especially young people who are high risk, meaning they are right there on the edge of deciding, is my life really worth living? Is my life really worth keeping, would anyone miss me? They're in that place where they are hearing the voices and they are dealing with depression, and maybe there was a circumstance in their family or in their life and they're maybe at a point where it would be easier if I was dead. We want to get them before they make that permanent decision to a temporary problem," he said.

Because of recent setbacks, many friends and volunteers have been donating time and efforts into rebuilding their homestead cabin, which they use as the headquarters for their non-profit. They say this is a life, not a vocational calling, and plan on advocating suicide prevention for as long as they can.

If you'd like to help the Pratts with the home remodel, you can visit https://www.gofundme.com/manage/roof-repair-before-winter-in-alaska.