Jan Reece, outreach/training specialist for Juneau Suicide Prevention Coalition, holds up a card with contact information for suicide prevention resources after a screening of “The S-Word” at Gold Town Theater in March 2019. (Ben Hohenstatt | Juneau Empire file)

Jan Reece, outreach/training specialist for Juneau Suicide Prevention Coalition, holds up a card with contact information for suicide prevention resources after a screening of “The S-Word” at Gold Town Theater in March 2019. (Ben Hohenstatt | Juneau Empire file)

Making your house safe can save a life, Suicide Coalition says

Means reduction can prevent people dying by suicide

Reducing the means of harm, particularly firearms is a proven method for reducing the risk of people dying by suicide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Now, with many spending a lot more of time at home, far from friends, socially distanced from usual routines, it’s a good idea to remember to reduce suicide risk factors, said Juneau Suicide Prevention Coalition outreach coordinator Jan Reece in a phone interview.

“If we remove the means, we can hopefully prevent that person from dying by suicide. Get them the help that they deserve,” Reece said. “There’s no place like home. And we’re all spending a lot of time at home right now.”

That’s going to be the subject of an upcoming livestream presentation by JSPC on Friday morning. Last week’s livestream, on the ABCs of Mental Wellness, reached more than 1,400 people, Reece said.

“This Friday we’re going to talk about means reduction with a focus on the home,” Reece said. “Means reductions saves your life if you’re in a mental health crisis.”

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Means reductions means keeping firearms, alcohol and medication locked up so that they’re difficult to access. More than 70% of suicides in Alaska involve alcohol, Reece said. Alaska has one of the highest rate of gun deaths in the country, leading the country for four of the last five years, according to the CDC.

“Keep your alcohol locked up. Keep your medications locked up,” Reece said. “We’re working with the opioid group about how to have prevention and to keep them involved in our work as well.”

Reece said that the JSPC is working to help people through what can be a stressful or challenging time, in light of rampant unemployment and widespread confinement to residences.

“Being at home has been hard. You have to recognize how you feel. You have to acknowledge those feelings. That yucky feeling you have inside you might be grief,” Reece said. “It might be epidemic grief, from losing that social connection.”

JSPC was able to rapidly adapt to working online with the spread of the epidemic, Reece said. She attributed that to her coworkers hard work and flexibility.

“We can still do trainings. We do it through Zoom, and we can offer it to any group in Juneau,” Reece said. “We’re still able to mail out our brochures and support the community.”

Best practices and resources

The JSPC recommends not keeping lethal doses of medication at home. Alcohol, likewise, can increases the risk of suicide. The JSPC recommends keeping it in a locked cabinet if possible. Finally, guns are easy-to-use and lethal. The JSPC recommends storing guns elsewhere or locking them securely.

The JSPC will have its next lecture at 11:30 a.m. Friday on their Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/TheJSPC/

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number is 1-800-273-8255, and it is available 24 hours every day.

The toll-free Alaska Careline number is 1-877-266-4357 or 452-4357 in Fairbanks. Alaska’s statewide hotline is staffed by Alaskans for Alaskans from 6 to 11 p.m. weekdays, and overnights on Friday and Saturday. During other hours, calls are automatically referred to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 757.621.1197 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.

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