Breaking the silence on suicide: The silent killer in the CNMI

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Within the past five years, approximately 43 lives were lost to suicide in the CNMI. Yet there is a persistent societal taboo against talking about this issue.

To break the silence on suicide, Lt. Gov. Arnold I. Palacios proclaimed September as Suicide Prevention Awareness Month yesterday at the Da’ok Academy compound in Lower Base.

“I was surprised by the number of people here today,” Palacios said upon seeing the number of people who attended the proclamation despite the heavy rain. “Perhaps it is the tragic experience of knowing members of our family, our community, who have gone and taken their lives.”

Palacios thanked all the organizations and members of the community who have stepped up to address “the very quiet issue of suicide.”

The 2017 CNMI Youth Risk Behavior Survey noted that 13% of high school students had thoughts of suicide, of which 48% LGTBQ students seriously considered attempting suicide. Another 5% of high school students had also attempted suicide at least once in the last year of this survey.

CNMI Suicide Prevention advocates pose with Lt. Gov. Arnold I. Palacios at the proclamation of September as Suicide Prevention Awareness Month yesterday at the Da’ok Academy compound in Lower Base.
(IVA MAURIN)

Since opening its doors in the CNMI in March 2018, the Garrett Lee Smith Youth Suicide Prevention Program has provided services to a total of 116 consumers between the ages of 10-24, who have had suicidal ideation or made an attempt to kill oneself.

Youth Suicide Prevention Program project director Ana Ada said that suicide is preventable if people are trained at recognizing its warning signs, like extreme sadness.

“We all are sad at one point, but when one is extremely sad, that means that person is troubled and needs help,” Ada said. “It could be trauma, it could be relationship problems, it could be anything that is so hurtful, and the person does not know how to deal with it. Through counseling and intervention, the person can get out of that black hole.”

The program is also working toward eliminating the stigma of suicide, educating the community about the warning signs of suicide, and ultimately reducing the rate of suicides on the islands.

To seek help, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255, and is available 24 hours. To help and for more information on suicide prevention, contact the GLS Youth Suicide Prevention Program at 664-5483/5433 or via email at cnmiglsysp@gmail.com.

Iva Maurin | Author
Iva Maurin is a communications specialist with environment and community outreach experience in the Philippines and in California. She has a background in graphic arts and is the Saipan Tribune’s community and environment reporter. Contact her at iva_maurin@saipantribune.com

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