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Mental Health Awareness Month

As Mental Health Awareness Month ends, and we continue to reflect on the challenges facing Anchorage, one issue stands out as urgent and interconnected: the intersection of mental health struggles and homelessness in Alaska. Our data from the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) reveals a stark reality: of the nearly 3,600 homeless Alaskans in Anchorage, just under 25% self-report experiencing a mental health disorder.  

Trauma plays a significant role in the mental health struggles of many Alaskans experiencing homelessness. At Henning Inc., we understand this all too well. Of the 2,628 Alaskans we served between October 1, 2023, and May 21, 2024, 24.9% reported experiencing stalking, human trafficking, or various forms of violence. The prevalence of trauma, coupled with Alaska's high rates of child abuse, contributes significantly to the cycle of homelessness in our state. 

Our commitment to addressing homelessness extends beyond providing shelter. We provide behavioral health services, addiction support, and referrals for psychiatric care. Our licensed psychologist meets with clients in individual and group therapy sessions, equipping clients with the tools to manage and improve their mental well-being through healthy coping mechanisms.  

 Our team's personal lived experiences with addiction, mental health, and homelessness inform our approach.  

Rob Seay, our Deputy Executive Director, struggled with suicide ideation, but never shared his struggles. Instead, he carried his pistol in his glovebox knowing that if he really wanted to, he would always be able to. After struggling in silence, like most of us, Rob got the honest help he needed, and now boxes. He uses his personal lived experience to walk beside those who are struggling in silence to reach recovery.  

Like Rob, I have struggled with my mental health for almost the entirety of my life. I have attempted suicide twice, but I have learned how to manage my struggles through new outlets. Even with my strong support system, medications, and feeding my spiritual health, I can and do struggle with my mental health today. The work I do is part of my healing journey; walking with others and sharing my story to give others hope.  

If we are to make meaningful progress in ending homelessness, it's clear that investing in mental health resources is crucial.  

Shawn Hays 

Executive Director  

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