The CNMI State Public School System is hoping to bring suicide and other related subjects to the forefront by promoting awareness of the issue in the community.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration and the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention report that suicide has become the second-leading cause of death for children ages 10 to 14 years old and that young children are increasingly at risk for it.
Suicide and other self-injurious behavior are considered taboo issues in a tightly-knit community like the CNMI, which has been rocked by suicide-related deaths in the past year, with most of the victims being students.
Other attempted suicides and self-injurious behavior from elementary to middle and high school students are seldom reported, with the victims most of the time experiencing anxiety and depression.
Dr. Yvonne Pangelinan, the PSS associate commissioner for Student and Support Services, spoke with members of the Legislature last week and gave a presentation titled, “Reaching Our Wounded Youth.”
CNMI PSS School Attendance Review Committee coordinator Robert L. Coldeen III and CNMI Youth Suicide Prevention Program of the Community Guidance Center project director Ana Ada joined Pangelinan at the presentation.
Changing the conversation in the community, Pangelinan said, would focus more on protective factors and other things that can be done to prevent suicide and attempts at other self-injurious behavior.
“Awareness must evolve from highlighting suicide in our community to bringing to light the things we can do to help raise strong, resilient kids who are able to cope with stress, anxiety, depression and mental health issues,” Pangelinan told Saipan Tribune. “The analogy I used was moving upstream to where the precipitating factors that lead to depression, anxiety, ‘falling into the ocean’ are.”
She added that the community must unite in helping make life experiences better for children. “Help them understand that they can be resilient in the face of challenges, give them real-life examples of adults who have overcome, build their self-efficacy early in life. Perhaps we can avoid the devastating effects of suicide risk, ideation, and completion.”
Suicide and other issues related to it are a touchy subject in the community and Pangelinan said she is aware of that, with individuals or members of the family wanting to remain silent and keep things private.
“Our goal is not to expose anyone’s vulnerability or struggle, but to break the stigma of depression and anxiety so that our kids will reach out for help when they need to and avoid keeping their feelings hidden,” she said.