Bering Strait Region Curriculum

After PC CARES was “piloted” and proven effective in the Northwest Arctic Borough, the neighboring region applied for research funds to expand the project.  The PC CARES curriculum was changed to suit the needs of Bering Strait communities before the first cohort of facilitators could be trainer.

Read more about curriculum adaptation here.


LC1: Culture Wellness

Alaska Native and Inuit youth suicide used to be rare in the past, and now, it is way too common. Rates of suicide have increased since the 1960’s, when the effects of colonization took hold in Alaskan communities. This learning circle looks at what community members think and feel about where we’ve been and where we’re going as a people, and examines the positive youth development framework along with what youth say helps them get through tough times.


LC2: Support for youth

In this learning circle, we look at survey results from northwest Alaska. Youth and adults were asked what they think will best prevent suicide. While adults’ responses focused on providing programs and opportunities to you, many youth simply said, “talk to us.”

According to survey results from the Bering Strait School District, over half students said they have 3 or more trusted adults that could go to with an important problem. We can all listen to better support the young people in our lives. “Listening for wellness” means showing acceptance and openness, Without interrupting, giving advice, or trying to cheer someone up, listening well also means reflecting back what you heard and asking open-ended questions.


LC3: Prevention

Suicide risk can look very different from person to person, but there are some common signals someone might be at risk--for example, drinking more than usual or fighting with people close to him or her.

Suicide is often impulsive. If you can make it 10 minutes harder to take suicidal action, you can save a life. Time matters! One of the most important first steps if you are worried about someone is to make sure they cannot easily get a loaded gun. Research shows that making one’s home safer by keeping bullets located separately from guns and both locked away can prevent suicide.

Small, non-demanding acts and messages of kindness can also reduce risk. For example, “I am thinking of you and I want you to know I care.”


LC4: Grief and healing

After a suicide happens, everyone—especially young people—are at higher risk for suicide. Families, communities, and institutions can respond in ways that could help, or could increase risk. Talking safely about suicide means sharing only the basic facts, rather than talking about how or why someone killed themselves.

This learning circle discusses the stages of grief. Grief after a suicide can take longer to heal from and be more complicated. Everyone experiences the stages of grief differently. Giving youth and adults a non-judgmental place to talk about what they’re feeling (for example, a support group) helps healing. Blaming, pretending it didn’t happen, or having memorial displays and services different from a non-suicide death can increase risk for another suicide.


LC5: Review and next steps

By this time, participants have repeatedly convened to share “what we know” about suicide prevention from research, and discussed how (or if) they can use the information in our lives. Through this process, participants develop a community of practice. Participants review and reflect on what they learned.

After this point, there are no more materials in the facilitator’s toolbox. Rather, it becomes the decision of the community of practice decide how to move forward. This could include celebrating and sharing what has already be learned and accomplished, selecting a key area or priority on which to focus efforts, or repeating the PC CARES process with different folks attending.