The Importance of a Healthy Lifestyle

Alaskan youth want and need strong and healthy role models at home and in their communities. Substance abuse by parents and community leaders was identified by stakeholders young and old as a major contributor to suicide. Given the evidence that substance abuse is involved in up to 70% of reports of harm to Alaskan children, and the research that shows how adverse childhood experiences [1] increase the risk of suicide in adulthood, it is important that every Alaskan adult make healthy and responsible lifestyle choices and model those choices for others.

Alaskans seeking to make healthy choices and overcome addictions and negative behaviors can learn more about treatment and support services from their medical provider, health educator, or community health/behavioral health aide. Mental health and substance abuse treatment options vary from community to community. Information about what is available is provided by the community behavioral health centers, tribal health corporations, Alaska 211, Careline, the Alaska Mental Health Board, and the Advisory Board on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse.

Research shows that mental and emotional health can be improved and maintained just like physical health often by the very same means. Mental health promotion is as simple as adding five things to your life: exercise, social connection, acts of giving, self-awareness, and learning[2].

These same lifestyle activities are recommended to reduce the risks associated with cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s Disease, hypertension, diabetes, and a host of other health conditions.

Promoting mental and emotional wellness in your life and the lives of your family members is directly related to reducing the risk of suicide. Nationally, the data reflects a distinct link between depression and risk of suicide. The American Association for Suicidology reports that about 66% of people who complete suicide are depressed at the time of their deaths[3].

The risk of suicide in people with major depression is about 20 times that of the general population[4]. Depression can be prevented in some cases, and in others, it can be mitigated and managed, through proactive lifestyle changes that improve or maintain health.


To find a mental health treatment provider in your community, call the Alaska Mental Health Board at 1-888-464-8920 or visit the Treatment Locator at

To find a substance abuse treatment provider in your community, call the Advisory Board on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse at 1-888-464-8920 or visit the Treatment Locator at

To find a primary care provider in your community, call the Alaska Primary Care Association at (907) 929-2722.

Alaska 211 is a social service referral call line provided by United Way. Dial 2-1-1 and explain what sort of help (health care, child care, housing assistance, food bank, etc.) you need. You can also find referral information online at

To learn more about how to improve and maintain mental and emotional health, talk to your medical provider, health educator, or community health/behavioral health aide and visit the Sound Minds in Sound Bodies project at

[1] Extensive research on the impact of child abuse, parental addiction, and other negative events during childhood has been documented by the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACES). This is a longitudinal study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente, tracking the consequences of adverse childhood events in over 17,000 people. Information about the study and its findings are available at

[2] This model is based on research conducted by The New Economics Foundation for the UK Government’s Foresight Project on Mental Capital and Well-being (2008). Research from 400 scientists worldwide was reviewed to determine how governmental entities can promote wellness for the population served. The “Five Ways to Wellbeing” model was developed to achieve population-wide mental health promotion objectives. The report is available online at

[3] American Association for Suicidology, Some Facts About Suicide and Depression online at
[4] Id.

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The Advisory Board on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse (ABADA) is one of the advisory boards created by Alaska statute as a result of the settlement agreement creating the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority (AMHTA).

ABADA was created within the Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) to perform the following statutory duties:

1. Prepare and maintain a comprehensive plan of services for the prevention and treatment of alcohol, drug, and other substance abuse.

2. Advise the legislature, the governor, and state agencies re:

a. Special problems affecting mental health presented by alcoholism or drug abuse;

b. Educational research and public informational activities about problems presented by alcoholism or drug abuse;

c. Social problems that affect rehabilitation of alcoholics and drug abusers;

d. Legal processes that affect the treatment and rehabilitation of alcoholics and drug abusers;

e. Development of programs of prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation for alcoholics and drug abusers; and

f. Evaluation of effectiveness of alcoholism and drug abuse programs in the state.

3. Provide recommendations concerning the use of money in the mental health trust settlement income account in a manner consistent with regulations.