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Dozens participate in suicide prevention training

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by Nona Perez

Guam - It's a taboo topic but people on Guam are talking about ways to prevent and cope with suicide. Every two weeks, one death on our island is a result of suicide an alarming statistic that has even members of the island's church community overwhelmed.

"The church is overwhelmed not knowing how to respond to the death, but by ritualizing the life of the person," said Sister Maryann Arroyo. She's participating in this week's Connect Suicide Prevention Program Postvention Training, one of dozens representing a diverse cross section of the island from law enforcement, school leaders, social service groups and community programs.

"It was an en eye opener workshop as to how to address and help our community go through emotional and overwhelming experience of losing a loved one," she said.

The training, sponsored by the Guam Behavioral and Wellness Center, features community educator and prevention specialist Ann Duckless and training and education director Elaine Demello. Both educators admit the island's suicide rates are comparable to American Indians, Hawaiian Natives, and Alaskan natives, but just like these groups, the island is taking action to bring awareness on suicide and reduce the stigma on talking about it and seeking help.

Duckless said, "The strength of this program is promoting, healing and reducing risks at a community level and those two things help with the issue of being able to talk openly when there's been a loss to suicide but also it helps promote healing for the community members to possibly avoid a future suicide incident."

Demello added, "It's creating a very large safety net on the island of Guam where everybody is on the same page where everybody is understanding what best practices are and everybody is using these resources to get help out there to people. There is help 24/7. One number that anyone can call if they're worried about themselves or anyone else is 1-800-273-TALK that's a number that's available anywhere and everywhere."

The Connect Suicide Training rounds out Thursday at Westin Resort. 

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