• Growing up Anchorage 2015: Anchorage Youth and Young Adult Behavioral Health and Wellness Assessment

      Heath, Karen; Garcia, Gabriel M.; Hanson, Bridget; Rivera, Marny; Hedwig, Travis; Moras, Rebekah; Reed, Danielle; Smith, Curtis; Craig, Sylvia (University of Alaska Anchorage Center For Human Development, 2015-01-01)
      This report presents results of a community assessment to evaluate behavioral health indicators and related demographic, social, economic, and environmental factors pertaining to youth and young adults aged 9–24 in Anchorage, Alaska, focusing on three major areas: substance use, mental health, and suicide. The Anchorage Collaborative Coalitions (ACC), made up of four organizations (Healthy Voices, Healthy Choices; Anchorage Youth Development Coalition; Spirit of Youth; and Alaska Injury Prevention Center), contracted with the University of Alaska Anchorage Center for Human Development (CHD) to do a community assessment on substance use, mental health and suicide. The population for this assessment was youth and young adults in the Municipality of Anchorage. The assessment was completed in two phases. Phase I was a review of existing data from national, state, and local sources (referred to as “secondary data” in the complete report). Phase II focused on the collection and analysis of new data from surveys and focus groups (referred to as “primary data” in the complete report). One goal of the assessment was to engage coalition and community members in the process. Coalition and community partners assisted throughout the process by helping define the gaps in existing data, helping define the areas of interest, and helping identify the focus of new data collection. They attended trainings on data collection and analysis, participated in community discussions about the findings, and participated in focus group data collection and analysis. Alaska’s youth and young adults are impacted by substance use, mental health, and suicide in significant ways. These behavioral health concerns are often interconnected and can have severe consequences. Substance use can lead to problems with school, the law and to youth taking risks that can lead to serious injury or death. Substance use in adolescence can put youth at higher risk for major life impairments and chronic conditions, including severe mental illness. Poor mental health in youth and young adults can lead to poorer physical health in adulthood, higher rates of chronic illnesses, and earlier death. Mental health and substance use disorders are likely the third leading cause of suicide deaths. In 2012, the Centers for Disease Control ranked Alaska as the second highest state in the nation for per capita suicide deaths. Family members and friends of people who die by suicide experience feelings of guilt, anger, abandonment, and shock. Also, these friends and family members are often at a higher risk for committing suicide in the future.