Hafa Adai yan Minagof na Oggan taotaoGuam:
Today I want to talk about a malady in our community that is affecting many families, most especially our youth on Guam.
Suicide on Guam is reaching epic proportions and we as a community must come together to do something about it. Data from the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse reveals that Guam's 2009 suicide rate is over 50% higher than the average US suicide death rates."
Last year there were 30 deaths from suicide-- and so far this year there have been 7 cases, 4 of which were 16 year old teens. Guam has one of the highest rates of suicide per capita.
Right here in the Pacific-- where we hold our heritage, customs and familial ties as sacred to our lives-- the statistics on suicide are astounding. No, they are outright heartbreaking. Those who identify themselves as Chamorro, Filipino, or being of FSM ethnicity make up over 75% of the total number of suicides in the past decade on Guam.
My Dear People of Guam, suicide is preventable. We as a community can help make that difference in someone's life when it comes to addressing these tragedies. It is clear that more must be done: we must build the awareness of this growing problem; we as community must develop a better understanding of this social ill; and we must identify more professionals who are available to assist in prevention.
The top two reasons leading to suicide or attempted suicide are family disputes and personal relationship problems. For every successful attempt, there are estimated 8-25 unsuccessful efforts at suicide. These statistics are alarming and we can't afford to let it go unaddressed. In this case, it is a matter of life or death.
On my part, I called for a roundtable to ascertain the facts about what exactly is happening in our community and to determine where and how effective local and federal dollars are being used to address these issues.
Last week, I, along with Senator Dennis Rodriguez, Jr., Committee on Health Chairman called for a roundtable with various government and community stakeholders. This was just the first of a series of discussions about suicide on Guam.
We will be calling for an oversight hearing to be conducted by our Joint Committees that will require the responsible government agencies to produce a strategic framework, standard operating procedures, a uniformed and reliable communications system, and the necessary protocols to optimally serve our island's at-risk population.
I want to make certain that all of our schools have a uniformed strategic prevention plan that addresses the growing suicide rates among our islands youth. The results of these meetings will be published and reported out to you, the People of Guam.
It is our responsibility as a community to address this problem, to put in place programs that help victims and to see to it that no one takes their own life or loses a life, regardless of the situation. So I ask you-- if family disputes and personal relationship problems are at core of why our loved ones even contemplate taking their life, that you please-- spare a moment and take stock in your family and your role in making the home a real safe haven, a place where you and those you care for may find peace, comfort, and refuge from external pressures and anxieties.
We must have strong relationships, with our children, spouse, relatives, and friends. Say something positive, be encouraging, ask questions. If you know of someone who may require intervention, please call 647-8833, or inform someone so that together we may save one more life.
And if you find yourself contemplating suicide, reach out to someone you trust. You are not alone. Call the intervention line: 647-8833. You are an important part of our community, and here on Guam, we take care of ours.
Si Yu'os Ma'ase, taotao Guahan. Take care of each other, and take care of yourselves. We are one people, one island, one community, and we must help each other to safeguard each of our precious lives.