Guam – The Department of Mental Health is asking the community to become more vigilant in light of a completed suicide by a Guam National Guard member earlier this week. Today we spoke with the department’s Prevention and Training Branch on ways you can help stop suicide.
Once every two weeks. That’s how often someone dies to suicide on Guam. The island’s suicide rate is so high, it’s nearly double that of the rest of the nation at nearly 20 suicides per 100-thousand people whereas the US average is just under 12.
Just this Tuesday a Guam National Guard member reportedly shot himself in the head in front of the Guard’s Readiness Center in Barrigada. The incident brought attention to the growing rate of suicide, not just on Guam but within the military, which has seen a spike in suicides with one suicide per day in this year so far.
The Department of Mental Health’s Prevention and Training Branch says suicide is preventable.
“When you come across somebody who is at risk for suicide, there’s a step by step process that will help you in helping that person to stop the attempt from bieng a completion. What we can do as a regular person in the community is just be more aware, be more available for the people around us,” says Sara Dimla, DMHSA’s Prevention and Training Branch spokesperson. “If you or someone you know are having thoughts of suicide, try to talk about it try to be able to open up those thoughts. Once you open up it will help you cope through whatever it is you’re going through.”
Here are some warning signs that you can watch out for in a friend or loved one.
– Talking about feelings of hopelessness or having no purpose
– Talking about being overwhelmed or trapped or being a burden to others
– Use and misuse of alcohol or drugs
– Acting anxious, agitated or reckless
– Sleeping too little or too much
– Withdrawal or isolating from others
– Giving away personal possessions
– Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
– Sudden changes in behavior such as extreme mood swings
– Talking or writing about wanting to die or death
– and previous suicide attempts
Dimla says if someone you know shows these warning signs for suicide, do not leave the person alone, remove any means or weapons that could be used in a suicide attempt and call for help. Dimla adds there are several methods of seeking assistance, other than from friends and loved ones.
DMHSA has a 24-hour crisis hotline, which is confidential. Their number is 647-8833.
“If it’s an emergency, don’t be afraid to call 911 because emergency dispatch can guide you as well,” she adds.
While suicide is still considered a taboo topic on Guam because it is associated with shame or guilt, Dimla says education and promoting awareness can help the community in becoming more vigilant in suicide prevention. In 2012, there have been 19 completed suicides so far.
A support group for survivors or those who have lost loved ones to suicide is being held at the PEACE office in Hagatna every second and fourth Thursday of the month. For more information, log on to peaceguam.org. In addition, GUNG Adjustant General Benny Paulino issued a statement on the guard member’s death.
“The incident on Tuesday morning at our Barrigada Readiness Center involving the death of one of our Soldiers is both a tragic and a painful event for the
entire Guam National Guard family. Our hearts go out to the family of our Soldier. The Guam Guard’s full resources has been made available to the Soldier’s family. I have directed our key leaders to initiate all our protocols to ensure that every Soldier, Airman, civilian and dependent in our Guam Guard family is
afforded whatever is necessary to help them get beyond this tragedy. Please know that the Guam National Guard leadership is focused on continually
providing the training and resources to strengthen Soldier, Airman and family resiliency, which is critical to maintaining comprehensive Soldier and family
fitness,” said Paulino.