Pacific Daily News

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (May 2, 2011) - Guam has a high rate of suicides, with a particularly troubling percentage of teens who take their own lives.

The island's suicide rate the number of those who commit suicide per 100,000 has been higher than that of the overall United States. It often is in the Top 10, if not Top 5, leading causes of death in Guam. Last year there were 30 deaths from suicide.

From 2000 to 2009, 20 percent of people who committed suicide were under the age of 20. So far this year, four teens have taken their own lives all of them just 16 years old.

"It's really an unrecognized problem on the island," said Dr. Annette David, data consultant for the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse's Suicide Prevention Program.

Last week, the Legislature held a community round-table discussion on Guam's suicide problem. It was a good start, but it's clear that so much more needs to be done to address this social concern.

One difficulty in trying to reduce suicide is that it stretches across all demographics youths and seniors, men and women, all levels of social status and even ethnicity. It's hard to put specific strategies into place to reduce suicide because what might reach and work with one group might not for a different group.

Still, the local government needs to take a strong look at what it's doing now to prevent suicide and spread awareness. How is it spending its funding, whether its General Fund revenue or federal grants? Are there measures being taken by other communities, in both the United States and elsewhere that are showing signs of success?

Awareness definitely needs to be strengthened. Our community needs to recognize how big the suicide problem is here in Guam. Outreach efforts in our schools, community centers, village meetings, senior centers and church communities, need to be strengthened. The more the public is educated about the problem and how to help those who show signs of suicide, the better.

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