Suicide: Continuing the Dialogue of Prevention & Awareness on Navajo Nation

Navajo students attend suicide dialouge at Pinon High School

Navajo students attend suicide dialouge at Pinon High School

Published February 22, 2016

PINON, ARIZONA — ”It’s often hard to have a discussion about suicide because we are taught to not talk about it. Yet, we need to because it’s affecting our communities,” Navajo Vice President Jonathan Nez said to the students of Pinon High School.

Starting the dialogue is just one issue facing the Navajo Nation when it comes to addressing suicide. However, it’s one that the Building Communities of Hope tour aims to tackle.

In December of last year, the Office of the President and Vice President (OPVP) undertook a suicide awareness and post-vention initiative called Building Communities of Hope wherein OPVP partnered with integral departments and area high schools to spread a message of hope across the Nation.

Since the initial tour, OPVP has been flooded with requests to have Building Communities of Hope visit schools that weren’t able to schedule the first time around.  Most recently, the tour visited Pinon High School on Thursday, Feb. 18.

Navajo Vice President Nez (l) and Navajo President Begaye (r) with students

Navajo Vice President Nez (l) and Navajo President Begaye (r) with students

During the presentation at Pinon High School,  Navajo President Russell Begaye delivered a message or self-love, self-confidence and kindness.  He told the students not to let the opinions and attitudes of others break them down because they are special and loved.

“Be yourself, love yourself and appreciate the people around you,” he said. “The more you give of yourself, the more you build yourself up inside.  In doing for others, you develop positive self-worth. Each and every one of you is special,” he said.

In considering the seriousness of the tour, Pinon High School Principal Lori Chee said she was happy to bring the message to the students.

“It is a topic that we should be discussing, not only with the youth but the community as well,” she said. “As such, I invited the middle school to attend because it’s something that our younger adolescents need to be aware of as well.”

Gary Holiday, Clinical Specialist with the Department of Behavioral Health Services, talked about recognizing suicidal behavior and addressing individuals who are showing warning signs.

“Sometimes when people are thinking about suicide, they give direct messages like stating, ‘I am thinking about killing myself’. Sometimes they are indirect and say things like, ‘I want the pain to stop’ or ‘Things would be better without me’. When you can detect these messages, you can start to help these individuals,” he said.

Holiday also presented signs to look out for like radical changes in behavior, isolation or when an individual starts to give away their personal objects.

When a person starts to present these messages or behaviors, they are reaching out for help, he said.

“Be direct and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Listen to the individual because often they just want someone to talk to.  Be understanding, non-judgmental, or blaming. Most importantly, don’t give up.”

Navajo comedian Pax Harvey shares his humorous wisdom

Navajo comedian Pax Harvey shares his humorous wisdom

As a part of each Building Communities of Hope presentation, a motivational speaker always addresses the students.  In Pinon, Pax Harvey brought his comedy stylings to highlight a positive message for the kids.

“I know what it’s like to be in that dark cloud and feel like there is no hope,” he said. “If I can survive domestic violence and abuse, growing up with pain,… if I can survive that, then so can you.”

Harvey told the students that drugs and alcohol are not a solution for emotional or mental pain and they can only make situations worse.

“Don’t hold in the pain.  Talk to somebody about it.  That’s why we are here today,” he said.

At the close of the event, members of the tour along with President Begaye and Vice President Nez, handed out basketballs, footballs and frisbees to the students.  Students were also afforded time to get a quick photo with the president and vice president.

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