With September being Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, and 2.5 years into the COVID pandemic, it is more important than ever to educate and inform Americans about the prevalence of mental health conditions affecting millions of people across the country. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among people aged 10-14 and the third leading cause of death among people aged 15-24 in the United States, according to the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI). Additionally, NAMI reports that the highest rates of suicide in the U.S. are among American Indian/Alaska Natives—a fact that GCI, the largest internet service provider in Alaska, is working tirelessly to help eradicate.
As NCTA covered earlier this year, GCI has made reducing the suicide rate in Alaska and promoting mental wellness throughout the state's schools, local nonprofits, and communities one of its top priorities, and in the following ways:
- GCI has contributed more than $600,000 since 2017 to nonprofits that help prevent and lower the rate of suicide in Alaska.
- The GCI Suicide Prevention Fund is an annual grant program that funds projects and organizations aimed at reducing the rates of suicide in the state. Tribes, schools, churches, local government agencies, and nonprofits in Alaska are eligible to apply, with preference given to efforts and programs that target rural parts of the state.
- In 2021, GCI awarded $114,000 of suicide prevention grants to 14 organizations, including Gold Star Peak, an organization dedicated to serving veterans, active-duty members, families of fallen service members who have died in combat, and those who died from suicide.
- The GCI Wellness Challenge is currently underway for the month of September and includes four mental health wellness challenges: completing a 5k run or walk, cooking a healthy meal, checking in with a friend, and taking 30 minutes for a self-care activity. Participants compete for tech prizes.
- GCI's investment in mental health initiatives is part of the $2 million the ISP donates each year in cash, products, and connectivity to organizations all over Alaska.
As a leader in the cable industry, GCI has gone above and beyond as a connectivity provider to support the emotional needs and mental wellness of its communities and residents throughout its footprint, serving as an example of how ISPs can make a difference in the lives of America's youth and adults suffering from mental health challenges.
Since suicide is a nationwide issue, the FCC this past summer established a national suicide hotline to dial for mental health emergencies, 9-8-8, and urges Americans to spread the word. The 988 Lifeline aims to decrease the stigma associated with mental health challenges by connecting people with behavioral health professionals through a phone call or text.
"Soon, children will learn at a young age about 988 the way they've learned about 911. Establishing a universally known number for suicide prevention will increase awareness of these issues and reinforce the fact that mental health is fundamental to your general health," wrote FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. For more information, visit fcc.gov/988-suicide-and-crisis-lifeline.