Promoting Community Conversations Around Research to End Suicide

PC CARES is an innovative approach to suicide prevention that is built on the knowledge of community members. It came about through collaboration between Maniilaq Wellness, University of Massachusetts Amherst, University of Alaska Fairbanks, and Kawerak Wellness. The model focuses on local solutions for local problems. The program has held pilot sessions in Kotzebue, Noatak, Kiana, Noorvik, Pt. Hope and Selawik in late August and early September. Once the team reviewed how the pilot sessions went, a facilitators training session was put together and held Nov. 9-13th. With 39 years experience in rural Alaska combined, Lisa Wexler and Diane McEachern developed the training and facilitated the 40-hour training of facilitators. Roberta Moto, Tanya Kirk, Evelyn Day and Lisa Ellana—Maniilaq’s Wellness team—provided insight and guidance to the process to ensure that the training and the PC CARES approach are culturally-based and respectfully done.

The facilitators training was attended by thirty people from our region representing 11 of Maniilaq’s service area villages. Since the program will serve as a community mobilization model to expand across rural Alaska, Kawerak Wellness staff and representatives from the Yukon-Kuskokwim area were invited. Our team is very grateful for NANA Regional Corporation’s support by recruiting their Shareholder Development Specialists and Resource Technicians for the training and allowing their staff to attend as part of their jobs.

The volunteer facilitators learned that PC CARES is based on the idea that it takes a village to raise a child, that villages can use research to come up with viable solutions based on Inupiat Ilitqusiat, and most importantly that villages have the power and the knowledge to solve their own problems. The facilitators were given the chance to practice their skills in leading PC CARES sessions and worked in groups to talk about how to hold the sessions at the village level.

Now that we have our local facilitators trained, village learning circles will be held on a monthly basis for nine months. The facilitators will be inviting CHAPs, school staff, IRA representatives, VPSOs, City representatives, elders and youth to attend these monthly meetings. Some who attend, like CHAPs and VBCs, will get continuing education credits for coming to most of these sessions.

During the learning circles that will begin in the region in early December, community members will discuss one small piece of research information that shows ‘what we know’ about suicide prevention or wellness from our region and from other Indigenous communities. The PC CARES participants will then have the opportunity to discuss ‘what they think’ about how (or if) the information is applicable to their community and what it could mean for them. The PC CARES learning circles close with a discussion about ‘what participants want to do’ so they can plan the next steps for wellness in their community. In this way, PC CARES gives local people more tools to work together to make positive changes in their community. The approach fosters self-determination and empowerment by basing the model on local discussions and brainstorming for solutions among the community members.

For more information on the program, the local sessions being planned and the staff that are working with the program please visit