Youth leadership participants introduce suicide prevention bill

(Photo from Sen. Amanda Shelton's Office)

Guam – Suicide prevention was the focus of a bill introduced Monday, April 22 by middle and high school students as a part of the Department of Youth Affairs Island Leadership Day mock session.

In a release from the Office of Sen. Amanda Shelton, chairwoman of the committee on the advancement of youth, Shelton recalls her personal experience in the program from her youth saying, “It is days like this that help our students find the role models to guide them into their future careers and help them become the leaders of tomorrow – end quote.”

The Leadership Day provides students with real life engagement in the dynamics of creating policy.

The students introduced an act to establish a youth mental health first-aid training and certification program for all GDOE personnel plus $300,000 over three years to implement the “Youth Mental Health First-Aid Act of 2019.”

The language of the bill, under legislative findings and intent, states that the rate of suicide in Guam, particularly our youth, is markedly higher than the US mainland.

The “Mental Health First-Aid Act” references information from the Guam State Epidemiological Profile 2016 Update, which reports that 56 percent of all suicides occurred in those under 30-years-old with Chuukese and Japanese having the highest ethnicity-specific suicide rate.

The legislation seeks to address the issue by training GDOE personnel to increase their capacity to perform a type of “first aid’ on youth mental health, which the policy says “will help in early prevention, most especially amid high youth suicide rates, elevated rates of depression, and risk factors for mental distress, such as bullying and sexual violence.”

However, the epidemiological profile links alcohol use, exposure to violence and mental illness to suicide deaths. Additionally, the findings on mental illness indicate symptoms are more prevalent among Micronesians, and those with lower income and lesser education.