Event places focus on teenage suicide

Noel Lyn Smith
The office of Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye is presenting the  "Building Communities of Hope" tour this week at Native communities in the area.

FARMINGTON – The Navajo Nation Office of the President and Vice President is hosting a tour this week that focuses on suicide prevention and awareness among Navajo young people.

The "Building Communities of Hope" tour started Monday at Thoreau High School, according to a press release from the president's office.

It will visit Shiprock High School at 1:30 p.m. and Newcomb High School at 5:30 p.m., both on Thursday.

The tour is scheduled to stop at high schools and community centers throughout the Navajo Nation and stems from a Dec. 4 proclamation tribal President Russell Begaye and Vice President Jonathan Nez signed.

The proclamation declares the third week of the month Suicide Prevention Week, and encourages tribal departments and communities to discuss suicide awareness and prevention. It also promotes the sharing of available resources in communities.

Suicide rates are high among Native American and Alaska Native populations with 40 percent of all Native American suicides involving people ages 15 through 24, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

“It is our goal to empower individuals, families and communities to make positive choices while restoring hope, self-sufficiency and determination. The loss of one life is one too many,” Begaye said in the release.

Begaye's office did not respond to an email seeking further information about the tour.

A flier posted on the office's Facebook page lists Nez and Echohawk Lefthand as motivational speakers during the tour stops.

"We need to let the youth know they have self-worth and that their lives are valuable. By reaching our and visiting high schools across the Navajo Nation, we hope to provide a positive influence on Navajo youth while reinforcing the serious nature of suicide prevention," Nez said in the release.

Wetona Becenti, program supervisor for the Office of Diné Y.O.U.T.H. in Shiprock, said five staff members will attend the session.

By attending, the staff will develop an understanding about the direction the president's office is taking in suicide prevention and awareness, Becenti said Tuesday.

It also helps personnel with identifying resources available in the community and to learn more about prevention methods and referral resources, she said.

Becenti added the event will help give a voice to young Navajos, connect them with resources and develop a sense the community cares about them.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636.