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MoHW Raises Suicide Awareness Through Education

World Suicide Prevention Day 2022 is observed on September 10 to reduce stigma and raise awareness. This year’s theme is “Creating Hope through Action”. This is a reminder that there is an alternative to suicide which can be achieved through proactive intervention from the community. The Ministry of Health and Wellness partnered with Edward P. Yorke High School today to set up an information booth on the school compound to educate the students. Reporter Giovanna Moguel files the following report.

Giovanna Moguel, Love FM News: Students weren’t using orange and yellow just to highlight important information in their textbooks today. The students at the Edward P. Yorke High School were donning these vibrant hues to highlight the importance of observing suicide awareness week. The school’s guidance counselor, Sampson Jacobs, says this week of activity is important as the students learn to cope with their emotions and, for the first formers, so they can assimilate to their environment.

Samson Jacobs, Counsellor, Edward P. Yorke High School:This is our first suicide awarness week at Edwar P. Yorke High School and the theme is Edward P. Yorke High School Suicide Awarness Week Coping Skills Matter. Because you know these students were locked up for two years and there is an increase in a lot of mental health issues so we need to give them the coping skills that they can maneuver in this real world. While we were online it was kind of challenging the work with students, now that we’re back it’s like everyday. For this week this is week number three and we have had a lot of issues as it relates to anxiety and so it is important because really and truly students while they’re at home they did not have anybody to talk to to relate what they’re going through and so the school tends to be the safe space, the safe zone that they can come and express from before eight in the morning students come to the office, during break, lunch, in the evening time because they want somebody to talk to.”

Giovanna Moguel, Love FM News: According to the International Association for Suicide Prevention, on average, an estimated 703,000 people worldwide die by suicide every year. Psychologist at the Ministry of Health, Juliet Simmons, explains that suicide in most cases are preventable.

Juliet Simmons, Psychologist, Ministry of Health and Wellness: “We believe that suicide is a hundred percent preventable because there are warning signs. So what we do is to educate people as to what are these warning signs, what to look for. So you want to look for a change in behavior, they’re not socializing, they’re not talking anymore, they’re giving away gifts, you see that depression look from them. They’re talking about suicide, they’re writing about it, planning things, so these are big warning signs that we need to look for any pay attention to.”

Giovanna Moguel, Love FM News: Simmons added that in Belize’s culture, mental health has long been neglected, especially in children. It is important that parents and guardians pay attention to children and adolescents for warning signs and offer support when needed. 

Juliet Simmons, Psychologist, Ministry of Health and Wellness: “And then of course when you see them you talk to that person, you ask them you know what’s going on ? Are you serious about this ? How can I help ? And you help them find help, connect them to a trusted person. If they’re not ready to see the professional counselors or the doctors let them speak to a you know the school counselors are awesome they know and they can offer a lot of help.”

Giovanna Moguel, Love FM News: Studies have shown that deteriorated mental health can cause poor daily functioning of a person and can lead to suicidal tendencies. 

Juliet Simmons, Psychologist, Ministry of Health and Wellness: ” Suicide is usually from… it’s a behavior, suicide attempt is a behavior from a different mental illness so if the person has severe depression we definitely look out for suicidal behavior. Someone with Schizophrenia, somebody with Bipolar disorder, somebody with a personality disorder such as Borderline Personality Disorder. So once we know someone has one of these diagnoses we definitely put suicide on the radar, we look out for that, we test for that because there’s an assessment to test for that.”

Giovanna Moguel, Love FM News: Twelve year old, Devin Arana, is a first former at E.P. Yorke. He aspires to be a lawyer, a doctor, or even the prime minister. However, he acknowledges that that many young people like him did not get a chance to reach their dreams. He says that his life skills class has taught him how to overcome negative emotions and be of assistance to his peers

Devin Arana, Student: ” I would start by telling them to tell me how they are feeling, what I can do to help them resolve this and maybe even introduce them to some new people. I would try to make them socialize more and by socializing more I feel like they would change their mind about committing suicide. I’ve learned a lot about personal development, I’ve learned that there are more than cases where many young students with bright minds have committed suicide due to stress or depression and I feel like if they didn’t commit suicide they could have achieved a lot in life.”

Giovanna Moguel, Love FM News: Jacobs says while they try to shed as much light as possible on the matter and take their awareness efforts to another level, there is still so much the community can contribute.

Samson Jacobs, Counsellor, Edward P. Yorke High School: ” I would encourage not only the learning institutions but also the businesses and organizations to include things like wear yellow and orange, invite Ministry of Health to do a presentation to their staff, one of the things I like to do with students is to share a social media post because you know they are technically inclined and so once they go on their social media app like Whatsapp, Instagram and they post something about suicide they also get extra points towards any subject area so it’s just to help build that awarness.”

Giovanna Moguel, Love FM News: Tomorrow, the school will have an assembly where balloons will be released into the sky and on Saturday the public is encouraged to light a candle.  Both of these activities are to commemorate those who were lost to suicide. Giovanna Moguel, Love News.