PINON, Ariz. - The Building Communities of Hope tour visited Pinon High School Feb. 18 in a continuing effort to start a dialogue on the Navajo Nation about suicide and spread a message of hope for kids throughout the Nation.
"It's often hard to have a discussion about suicide because we are taught to not talk about it," said Navajo Nation Vice President Jonathan Nez to the students at Pinon High School. "Yet, we need to because its affecting our communities."
In December of last year, the Office of the President and Vice President took on a suicide awareness and post-vention initiative called the Building Communities of Hope tour, partnering with departments and area high schools to spread its message of hope across the Nation.
Since the initial tour, the Office of the President and Vice President has been flooded with requests to have the tour visit schools that were not on the schedule the first time around.
During the presentation at Pinon High School, Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye delivered a message of self-love, self-confidence and kindness. He told students to not 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."
Pinon High School Principal Lori Chee said she was happy to bring the message to the students even though it was a serious subject.
"It is a topic that we should be discussing, not only with the youth but the community as well," she said. "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,'" he said. "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."
Holiday also presented signs to look out for, like radical changes in behavior, isolation or when someone 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," Holiday said. "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."
As a part of each Building Communities of Hope presentation, a motivational speaker always addresses the students. In Pinon, Pax Harvey brought his comedy 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 can only make situations worse.
"Don't hold in the pain," he said. "Talk to somebody about it. That's why we are here today."
At the close of the event, members of the tour, along with Begaye and 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.