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KNBA News - Expert says suicide prevention will take involvement of every Alaskan

Oct 19, 2015

KNBA Newscast for October 20, 2015

Talking about suicide is key

By Lori Townsend, APRN

Four recent suicides in Hooper Bay and the very public death of a man who killed himself at the Dena'ina Convention Center at the end of the annual AFN convention Saturday, has Alaskans and Alaska news media grappling with the right way to discuss and report, without sensationalizing, deaths from suicide. Discussions after a suicide can help support people at risk, or help push them in that direction, depending on the approach taken. Eric Boyer is the training coordinator at UAA's center for Human Development. He said each suicide affects some 20 people, so how the topic is handled is important.

“So when we pull together support those who have been impacted by a suicide with support for their healing and grief that that is directly can support preventing future suicides,” said Boyer. “We know suicide is preventable in the public health realm. It's not 100 percent.  Suicides can still occur. So when they do we really want to take those opportunities to support those individuals ongoing but also be aware of those who are around them.”

The Anchorage Police Department, which sends out notices on everything from traffic and lost individuals, to robberies and murder, doesn't notify the media about suicides.

“If we never ever talk about suicide, it will stay a mystery. People will not understand what it looks like or how they can intervene,” said Boyer. “And they'll think 'well it's the state's job to deal with this or it's an expert's job.' And the reality is a public health approach is only going to work if every Alaskan gets involved, learns some of the basic things and knows that they can intervene in a safe way with someone who is struggling with whether to live or not.”

Boyer said groups recently have been discussing how to use social media, and other ways to reach out to people.

“Just in the last few weeks I know these organizations have been talking,” said Boyer. “And we're actively playing a support role for them to say 'so how can we move toward this.'”  

Eric Boyer is a suicide prevention expert at UAA. Alaska's Suicide Prevention and crisis support helpline is 1-877-266-HELP.

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Expert disputes key evidence in Fairbanks Four case: boot impressions don’t match injuries  

By Dan Bross, KUAC- Fairbanks

A forensic expert is disputing boot print evidence used to link one of the Fairbanks Four to the 1997 murder of John Hartman. Independent consultant Lesly Hammer testified Friday at an ongoing evidentiary hearing into whether George Frese, Kevin Pease, Marvin Roberts and Eugene Vent, men known as the Fairbanks Four and convicted of the Hartman attack, are in fact innocent.  Hammer, a former Alaska State Crime lab employee, said prints from George Frese’s boot cannot be matched to photos of imprints on the badly beaten Hartman.

“I found no correspondence between the injuries that I observed those features, shapes of injuries and any of the shapes of the shoe lugs as represented on that partial shoe impression,” said Hammer.

Hammer further commented that the examination techniques and analysis presented at 1999 trials show lack of training.

“Didn’t appear to be some of the basic understanding of the discipline itself, basic application of methods or importance of scale in the examination,” said Hammer.

Hammer’s testimony, which included observations based on recent developments in the field of shoe impression analysis, was objected to by state attorneys as redundant of evidence previously presented at trails.  The hearing resumes today [Tuesday] when Kevin Pease is scheduled to take the stand.

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