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MAJURO, Marshall Islands (April 27, 2001 – Marshall Islands Journal)---There have been as many suicides in the first three months of 2001 as in all of last year – a development that has caused shockwaves among local educators and health staff who provide suicide counseling.

From 1998 through 2000, the numbers of suicides were 7, 5 and 8 respectively. Suddenly, what many had hoped was a problem on the decline has mushroomed back into an epidemic similar to the 1980s and early 1990s, when double-digit suicide deaths were the norm. Equally troubling is that the problem is no longer confined largely to young men, as more young women appear to be trying their hand at killing themselves these days.

"We’re very shocked to see the number so far this year," said Glorina Harris, the director of Human Services that provides counseling and runs suicide prevention programs.

Normally, it is Christmas and graduation periods when RMI sees most of the suicides and attempted suicides, Harris said.

This year has clearly set itself aside from "normal" years, with the Marshalls on target for 32 suicides – the most ever in a single year – if the current pace continues through the year.

In addition, there have been 12 reported suicide attempts, according to a suicide awareness/prevention program at CMI (College of the Marshall Islands).

Harris also reported that Monday she received a call from Northern Islands High School in Wotje that one of the students had attempted suicide at the weekend.

Following the holding of a suicide prevention conference in the Marshalls in 1999, both attempted and completed suicides declined (suicide attempts were 6, 4 and 7 for 1998 through 2000, respectively, according to Human Services).

"We thought the numbers went down after the 1999 conference because we reached a lot of parents in the community," Harris said, adding that awareness was high.

The Marshall Islands Journal, Box 14, Majuro, Marshall Islands 96960 E-mail:  Subscriptions (weekly): 1 year US $87.00; international $213.00 (air mail).

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