Mental Health Awareness Month may be wrapping up, but GCI—Alaska’s largest internet service provider—actively addresses this important issue year-round. Unfortunately, Alaska has one of the highest suicide rates in the country, and the limited access to services in the state’s rural and remote areas make the issue even more difficult to tackle. But GCI has made it a priority to contribute as much support as possible towards improving the overall well-being of the Alaskan communities it serves.
Why It Matters: "We know Alaska is unique and there are many factors that lead to our state’s high suicide mortality rate," said GCI Chief Marketing Officer Kate Slyker. "That’s why we believe the best way to prevent these tragedies is through community-focused programs. We’re grateful for opportunities to support the efforts of organizations big and small, especially in rural Alaska, that are moving the needle and strengthening communities across the state."
Community-Focused Programs Are Helping Alaskans
The GCI Suicide Prevention Fund has been the key to supporting communities and promoting healthy living throughout Alaska:
- The fund, established in 2017, has contributed approximately $700,000 towards supporting initiatives that aim to reduce Alaska's suicide mortality rate. For the current year's grant cycle, Alaskan organizations (including nonprofit organizations, tribes, schools, churches, and local government agencies) have until June 14 to apply for the GCI Suicide Prevention Fund.
- In partnership with the Alaska Community Foundation, GCI distributes $100,000 in grants each year to organizations with a suicide prevention focus.
- One of the grant recipients in 2022 was Gold Star Peak, Inc., an organization dedicated to providing essential mental health services and support to fallen heroes, active-duty service members, Gold Star families, and veterans. "Receiving our suicide prevention funding has been instrumental in expanding our reach and making a tangible difference in the lives of those we serve," said Kirk Alkire, founder of Gold Star Peak Inc.
- Another program that received support is the Ketchikan Youth Peer Education Program, which empowers teens to provide education, training, and support to their peers under the guidance of counselors and experts.
GCI also organizes the GCI Wellness Challenge, held each September, which encourages community connections and self-care:
- Participants are challenged to complete four wellness activities: run or walk a 5k, check in with a friend by video or phone, cook a healthy meal, and complete one self-care activity.
- Prizes are awarded at the end of the challenge to incentivize participants.
It Takes a Village
GCI’s mental wellness efforts are providing a lifeline to individuals and to organizations dedicated to making a tangible impact on the lives of Alaskans, particularly those in rural areas where the need is often greatest.
Alaska's battle against suicide requires a collective effort, and GCI’s community-focused initiatives serve as catalysts for change. By promoting mental wellness and focusing on suicide prevention, GCI aims to not just connect all Alaskans to broadband, but to create a brighter future for all across the state.