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Suicide Awareness Training continues throughout the week

Suicide awareness training
On Monday, sadly there was a reported completed suicide

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The Department of Health- Behavior Health Services along with the Department of Human Resources are hosting at least 1000 government workers each day for this week’s Suicide Awareness Training Program at the Governor H. Rex Lee Auditorium in Utulei, Monday through Friday.

There are 4 sessions each day, from 9am- 2:30pm, for an hour per session.

Up to 400 workers are expected to participate in each session, of the 5000 plus employees of the government throughout the week.

Governor Lemanu P. S. Mauga this week Monday, declared September 2023 as National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month in American Samoa.

“Fully recognizing that suicide awareness should be a community initiative that we all support if we are to incite positive change.

Governor Lemanu calls upon all residents of American Samoa to take the time to inquire as to the wellbeing of your family members, friends, and neighbors and to genuinely convey your appreciation for their existence  by any gesture you deem appropriate.

“Be the one to ask, keep them safe, be there, help them connect and follow up to remind them, that they are not alone and suicide isn’t the answer.”

He also encouraged everyone to engage in related programs and activities orchestrated by Government and Non- Government Organizations (NGOs) throughout this month.

The crowd of close to 400 government workers for the second session of Tuesday morning had a chance to hear several presentations from their co -host, Dr. Salilo Julia Foifua ED D MSW, Talalupelele Sunia Fiso, MSW, Patricia Masaniai, RN, and Vesi Talalelei Fanuatapu, Deputy Director- DOH.

Local suicide data was presented, including that 8% of adults in American Samoa have had thoughts of suicide plans to kill themselves.  In 2021, 14 attempted to take their lives with six completing the attempts. The rate decreased in the following year, 2022 there was only one attempt with two completions.

In 2023, from Jan- Sept, there were four attempts and four completed.

Speaking on Monday, Dr. Salilo said she was challenging everyone to be aware and work together.

However, on Tuesday (yesterday), she revealed that “as we teach you ways to help someone or help yourself, I have had the experience yesterday,” noting there was a suicide attempt completed on Monday.

Dr. Salilo said she heard of what happened on Monday, and “I felt like i don’t know what I’m saying and doing, afai ua oo mai iate a’u ia lagona, then I can only imagine, what the population is saying, o a tatou mea o fai?”

“Suicide is preventable but not predictable,” said. “Today it’s a challenge for all of us, to be watchful, fill up ourselves, our thoughts and feelings with answers to challenges.

“With all professionals working in the American Samoa government, we are all adults, this issue comes and goes. It shouldn’t stop us from our responsibilities to make a difference.

“That’s what happened yesterday (Monday). and has yet to be included in the complete suicide data.

“But from the last three years, 19 have attempted to take their lives, and 12 were completed.”

Information made available during the sessions include knowing warning signs to understand, from people who are heading in the direction of suicide — they talk about wanting to die, feeling hopeless, unbearable pain, and being burden to others.

Also included, is having access to weapons, isolation from others, increasing substance abuse, recklessness, impulsiveness and showing rage, and may even lead to self harm.

Recorded within families, warning signs are conflict, loss and grief, financial stress, and victim abuse. While at the workplace, there’s bullying, job loss and financial stress.

And then there are relationship problems, as well as exposure to others who died by suicide, sometimes setting off change reactions, causing a cluster of suicides.

After participating in one of the sessions, the government workers were expected to go home and stay positive, with Protective Factors that start from oneself, beginning with self esteem, resilience, coping skills and physical wellness.

For Families, information shared was that there should be family bondings, healthy relationships and good communication.

While in the Community, there is a need to stay connected, to a positive environment, with collaboration, and a trusted support system.

Gov. Lemanu said, “American Samoa is not different from any other community, in the country, and the recent suicides reminds us of the urgency of this situation, and American Samoa chooses to publicly state and place our full support behind local educators, mental health professionals, athletic coaches, police officers, faith based leaders, parents and all other key stakeholders, as partners in supporting those who are struggling, by being available to one another and leveraging our resources to protect our community. “

The Suicide Awareness Training sessions continue through to Friday.