Mental health, suicide prevention and cultural challenges

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Focus on Life Project Director Dr. KristiAnna Whitman understands the discussion of mental health might have some cultural challenges but there are ways to bring it into the conversation.

September is the national month of suicide prevention. With this year’s theme being diversity and social justice, the organizers aim to provide a unique perspective on how this is connected to suicide and suicide prevention on Guam and the Micronesian region.

Focus on Life Project Director, Dr. KristiAnna Whitman understands the discussion of mental health might have some cultural challenges but there are ways to bring it into the conversation.

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“The idea of telling stories is really that’s something inherent in our culture so we might not, again traditional or formal therapy or formal counseling, may not be something we’re quite used to. But the idea of supporting each other and being there for each other is a cultural value, I think. At least that’s something I learned over time and so I think it’s very reasonable to ask our community to be there for each other and really embrace that spirit of sharing our stories even if that story is one that’s ugly, something that not pretty, right? Even if that story is kind of sad but it could end as a story of hope,” Whitman said.

Whitman adds that based on their data, the estimated ages on island that’s susceptible to commit suicide are between 20-39 and there were limited opportunities for young adults to talk openly about mental health efforts and suicide prevention.

With these findings, the Guam Behavior Health and Wellness Center has and still continues to put out more events, forums, webinars and advertisements for their services to help the community better cope with and speak about mental health.

The Suicide Prevention Forum 2020 “Diversity Social Justice and Suicide Prevention” will be held online via zoom on Wednesday, September 30th from 6 – 8 pm.

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