Remembrance Tree Ceremony
Tragically, suicide is the 5th leading cause of death in Alaska. More than 90% of people who die by suicide show symptoms of a mental health condition.
In 2008, NAMI Anchorage received a donation from Conoco Phillips. Enclosed with the check was a letter reading that one of their employees had lost their daughter "as a result of mental illness." We knew immediately that this meant their daughter had died by suicide.
We believed this particular donation was special and not to be used for funding everyday expenses. The Victims for Justice tree at the Park Strip came to mind - ribbons are tied on the tree by community members who have been victims of crime. We decided that we would follow that model and buy a tree with the donation to build a remembrance garden at the NAMI building.
The first annual Remembrance Tree Ceremony took place at our garden in 2009. We invited people to tie a ribbon on our tree in remembrance of their loved ones who had died by suicide. The Ceremony offered participants a place to share their losses and build solidarity.
Due to the NAMI building being listed for sale in 2016, it was decided that the tree and ceremony should be moved to a more permanent location. We chose RurAL CAP's 325 East Third Avenue permanent supportive housing property. It is a place for people who are homeless and experiencing mental illness and substance use disorders to access treatment and receive support, which aligns with our goal of treating mental illness to stop suicide. Unfortunately, moving the original tree had proven prohibitive. A beautiful new tree was donated by Jess and Shirley Holloway in honor of their beloved daughter Kathleen who had died by suicide. At the 2016 Remembrance Tree Ceremony, the tree was dedicated as Kathleen's Tree.
Our running theme for the Remembrance Tree Ceremony is Treat Mental Illness - Stop Suicide. We will continue to advocate for early detection and treatment of mental illness to prevent suicidal ideation and to stop suicide.
The Remembrance Tree after the 2019 ceremony.