SHARINA Clark, acting program manager for the CNMI Suicide Prevention Program, said the “Light Up the Night” walk on Thursday aimed to raise awareness about suicide prevention, and reduce the stigma surrounding individuals seeking mental health services.
Clark said similar activities were held on Tinian and Rota.
On Saipan, the Light Up the Night walk started at the Minachom Atdao pavilion in Susupe and proceeded to the Quartermaster Road/Beach Road intersection in Chalan Laulau.
“I came up with the idea because it is done nationally for our veterans who have taken their lives,” Clark said. “That's why we have the JROTC high school cadets here — we also have some Reservists in attendance tonight. We like to bridge and let people know that there are services and they can avail themselves of those services if they need them.”
According to Clark, from 2016 to 2020, “a total of 47 individuals have taken their lives in the CNMI (Saipan, Tinian and Rota). That’s a big number considering our population.” The CNMI has an estimated population of over 50,000.
Clark said the CNMI Suicide Prevention Program started in March 2018.
“Initially we started by providing services to the youth and the young adults, 10 to 24 years old, but in 2019 we started seeing individuals over the age of 24,” she added.
Since then the program has, “seen a total of 339 clients, roughly 70% of that number were having suicidal thoughts, and roughly 18% attempted to commit suicide. Again, those numbers are pretty high considering our population,” Clark said.
Asked about the possible causes of suicide among the youth, Clark said, “A lot of it involves familial conflicts, relationship conflicts… domestic violence and sexual assault trauma.”
Clark said domestic violence and sexual assault should also be addressed.