By Melinda Munson

Skagway is headed into a long dark winter with more isolation and less money than usual. It’s a situation the municipality and Dahl Memorial Clinic (DMC) take seriously.

“In these challenging times, messages of hope and healing are more needed than ever. Everyone in Skagway must encourage relatives, friends, co-workers and providers to recognize the signs of a problem and guide those in need to appropriate services and supports,” said Mayor Andrew Cremata.

The municipality declared Sept. 6-12 Suicide Prevention Week, the first time the municipality has recognized the nationwide mental health campaign.

“The economic, emotional and psychological impact of the COVID-19 pandemic can lead to feelings of hopelessness and thoughts of suicide. The magnitude of these impacts makes it even more important that we know the signs that someone is contemplating suicide and how to help them,” said John Hischer, DMC’s licensed clinical social worker.

On Oct. 14 and 16, Hischer will lead a Mental Health First Aid Class at the Skagway Traditional Council (STC). The 8-hour course “teaches participants how to give first aid to individuals experiencing a mental health crisis situation and/or who are in the early stages of a mental health disorder,” Hischer said.

The class will cover depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, bipolar and substance use disorders. It will also address suicide behaviors, panic attacks, accute psychotic behavior and drug overdose.

The program’s motto is “Identify, Understand, Respond.” More info can be found at Interested participants should contact DMC.

Hischer runs SMART Recovery Meetings on Mondays from 6-7:30 p.m. at STC for those coping with addiction. Each Wednesday, he sends out an emotional health email addressing different topics.

Along with counseling and mental health resources, Hischer is available to help with financial needs such as assisting residents with Medicaid and food benefits applications. He can be reached at 907-983-2255 or at