Winter in Unalaska by Sam Zmolek
Your voice in the Aleutians.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Unalaska holds walk on suicide prevention and awareness in solidarity with walks across the country

heidi lucking
Sofia Stuart-Rasi
Lucking started participating in "Out of the Darkness Walks" when she lived in Texas.

September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, suicide is a major public health concern in the United States. In Alaska, state and tribal organizations report that suicide rates are increasing.

Heidi Lucking is a behavioral health clinician for the Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association. She’ll be leading a suicide awareness and prevention walk in Unalaska Saturday called “Out of the Darkness Walk.”

KUCB’s Sofia Stuart-Rasi sat down in-studio with Lucking on Wednesday to talk about the event, which is being held in solidarity with walks across the country.


HEIDI LUCKING: The “Out of the Darkness Walk” here in Unalaska is gonna look a little bit different than how the “Out of the Darkness Walks” are normally played out in other places. We are doing a community group that's actually linked to the walk in Anchorage, rather than hosting our own individual walk. We'll have a table with resources. People can show up at 10:30 a.m., which is a half-hour before we start walking. We can share memories, hugs, support, resources and things like that. Then we'll walk from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. — it’ll be a gentle, walk and talk kind of thing. Weather permitting, we'll get to go outside — I've picked a very level place for everyone — or will be inside at the track at the PCR. Then at 12 p.m., we'll just kind of pack everything up and go home.

In other places, there are signs and people holding signs with messages of hope for people. Or little rocks that you can pick up that are painted and have positive affirmations, or messages of hope all along the trail. They also have presenters who will talk about their survival stories, whether they've survived suicide, or they've survived the loss of a loved one to suicide. They have a lot of tables from different local organizations with resources and whatnot. But for here, we'll have journals and these nifty bookmarks that have all the crisis lines on them.

NAMI [the National Alliance on Mental Illness] has some amazing online resources that are all free to individuals and Unalaskans who need to get into a support group or something like that. We'll have a lot of that kind of stuff there. But it's just a very easygoing get together — where we support each other and it’s a walk and talk kind of thing this time around. I'm hoping it'll develop into something bigger in the future.

SOFIA STUART-RASI: What should people wear?

LUCKING: People should definitely dress for the weather — first and foremost, if we do walk outside, that would be the wisest thing to do. Maybe bring a jacket, because it is starting to get colder out, and your sneakers. If we do move indoors, that's OK, we have somewhere to hang it up and we'll walk around the track.

There are individual colors that people can wear to honor those that either they've lost to suicide or if they've had their own struggle with suicide. I'll give you a few examples: orange is if you lost a sibling; white is if you lost a child; you can wear purple for a relative, a friend, or associate that you've lost to suicide; or rainbow which is honoring LGBTQ plus community — because we know that they have much higher suicide rates. There are different colors that you can wear — you can find them online on the website American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. I also have a post on the community group's Facebook page for Unalaska Friends and Events that lists all those colors. The colors give a statement, support and honor. And [shows] that you do relate to this cause and you're there to support each other through that.

STUART-RASI: If anybody wants to bring signs … you know, if they can't partake in the walk, but want to be there to show support … can they bring signs, can they bring rocks that they've painted on?

LUCKING: Yeah, definitely. We would be happy if someone wanted to bring something by — we'd be happy to put it up. And leave their messages of hope and their survival experience out for other people to feel encouraged and supported by — we'd be more than happy to do that.

If we are going to walk outside, and the weather does look permissible, I encourage people to bring their dogs because who better than a furry friend who is so loyal and also by your side throughout that entire process? They really are their own type of therapy and I encourage people to bring their furry friends.

STUART-RASI: What suicide prevention resources are there here in Alaska?

LUCKING: Here in Unalaska, APIA has a 24-hour crisis line that actually can be called, as does USAFV — so those would be the most localized resources that we have here. As well as of course, calling 911 — if it's a real emergency or you're really struggling, absolutely call 911. They're there to support you too.

Then I have some other broader local mental health resources. 988 is a national number, but it also serves us locally. I think that's a really good place to start, especially if you even just need someone to talk to — it feels like these thoughts are just kind of getting away from you, or it's all crashing down on you and you're not sure where to start — 988 that lifeline number is incredible. I would definitely push putting that number in your phone, or if you can remember 988, use it. There are trained professionals on the other end and they are not doing this because they're paid or anything, they're doing this because they genuinely care, it’s worth giving them a call.

We also have the Alaska Careline and we have the Providence Alaska 24-hour crisis line. NAMI Alaska also has its own number.

Then there are some national mental health resources: I already mentioned 988, but there's also a national NAMI number, which is the National Alliance on Mental Health, and there's a Veterans Crisis Line and an LGBTQIA hotline that can be called.

I also have some bookmarks that we've made that have all of these awesome numbers on them. If anybody wants one, I've dropped some off at USAFV, the clinic, we have some at APIA. I'll probably leave some here at the radio station. If someone wants some of these bookmarks, it has most of those resources in one place and you can just stick it in your book and carry it with you.

Sofia was born and raised in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. She’s reported around the U.S. for local public radio stations, NPR and National Native News. Sofia has a Master of Arts in Environmental Science and Natural Resource Journalism from the University of Montana, a graduate certificate in Documentary Studies from the Salt Institute and a Bachelor of Arts in Studio Arts from the University of Colorado Boulder. In between her studies, Sofia was a ski bum in Telluride, Colorado for a few years.
Related Content