The Words of the Yakawich Family

Suicide Prevention Work

Mike Yakawich
September 18, 2007
Billings Montana

Members of the Suicide Prevention Coalition of Yellowstone Valley and some field representatives from the US Congressional offices and city council as part of the Suicide Prevention week.

The week of September 9th-15th was Suicide Prevention Week. As the Chairman of the Suicide Prevention Coalition of Yellowstone Valley [Montana], I feel that this issue has been a very important part of my ministry. It has impacted rural areas as dramatically as the urban areas. The toll that suicide has waged upon our nation is appalling and is worthy of being addressed. There are 29,000-plus reported suicide deaths in this nation, with 775,000 Americans attempting suicide each year.

At our kick-off for that week, we held a press release. We had requested and received a proclamation from the Mayor of Billings. In this public setting, one of our city councilwomen read the proclamation. "Public awareness of this terrible problem is the key to preventing further suffering and loss of life and the risk for human self destruction can be reduced through awareness, education and treatment."

We also had a spokesperson from the Indian Health Department since suicide crosses over all racial, religious and cultural boundaries. In addition, we had representatives from our U.S. Senators and U.S. Congressman who spoke from their hearts on the need to address this preventable social issue. "Through an increase in awareness and advocacy, we will be able to identify warning signals and prevent the tragedy of suicide."

Although the week has passed, as a pastor of our church, I feel we all need to continue to educate ourselves on suicide prevention. There is training for those who wish to pursue this topic even more such as Question, Persuade and Refer Training (QPR) and ASIST Training. There is a great stigma to this issue. However, we have discovered that to talk and educate people on this issue actually decreases suicide. Remarkably, the more that this topic is addressed and the more information we gain about it, the more it is preventable.

We have been working as a coalition with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), city and county health professionals, state and local mental health workers plus school counselors and survivors. The survivors, members of a family who lost a loved one to a completed suicide, have really supported and encouraged me to take leadership for this coalition. Their desire to heal their own hearts by contributing to the community in prevention and awareness of suicide has been a great contribution to our coalition.

We have found through the CDC (Center for Disease Control) that suicide trends among youths and young adults aged 10-24 has increased in the United States from 1990 to 2004. Therefore, "Prevention measures should address the underlying reasons for suicide in populations that are vulnerable." stated the CDC in the September 7th, 2007 Weekly MMWR. As a pastor and member in our community, I am implored to take on such issues to the best of our ability.

Certainly, we are "One Family Under God" and when one child (no matter what age) is lost, it is a loss to our family. In the same vein, if we can save others from this spiritual and emotional tragedy, we strengthen, support and ensure our one family under God. I am very grateful for Father Moon, who encourages us to be a positive influence in our community to the capacity we can achieve. May God Bless our Nation!

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