Today, teachers and school counselors filled a double room at the BIM offices in Belize City. It wasn't teachers training per se, but awareness - raising about teen suicides and the warning signs for this.
It's the third annual Mental Health Conference and the centerpiece is a suicide resource pamphlet called "Suicide Risk Guidelines: A Resource for Teachers."
The idea is to empower teachers with the tools to identify and intervene in cases where teen suicide is real risk.
Dr. Claudina Cayetano helped develop the document and told us more about why teachers should see suicides as preventable:..
Dr. Claudina Cayetano
"This is directly for teachers. We thought that most of these adolescence in school and sometimes the teachers are overwhelm with so much things that they need to do. It is important that we present them with some guidelines in order to recognize the signs and symptoms of teenagers that may consider suicide."
"What necessitated the introduction and the publication of this pamphlet?"
Dr. Claudina Cayetano
"At the beginning of the year we started to hear about the issues with some of the teenagers that had attempted suicide and then I think it was important for us from the Ministry of Health for the mental health program to do something in order to target this population. It's not just because of that, part of our program - we have a strategic plan that started from 2007 - 2011 and so we have included suicide as part of our plan. This is very important for us because as you know no one should die because of suicide. We know we are going to die but suicide and then as a teenager - I think it's very tragic. Even though it's not only in Belize, EMO is not only in Belize as you know - it's everywhere in the world and we were not do alarm about that because you know suicide has always been in Belize to a lesser extent, not too much, but we do know that we have the statistics to proof that suicide has been happening in Belize. In fact we have higher numbers than in the past than what we have recently. But then it was important to understand that culture that what was happening in Benque, so we did work with some of the organizations there."
"But you don't know who they are, this is just what they are saying but when you go and talk to the kids - no one is coming forward to say that they are "EMO" they would not do that. The adolescence that we had the opportunity unfortunately attempted suicide; I did an interview with her. They will talk about that but most of the times they always have personal problems - either problems at home, problems with their parents, problems in school, with their boyfriends and those are the things that became more important for them - why they felt that they want to attempt suicide, so they had more issues even though EMO is their cover-up. Some of these teenagers have problems that were driving them - those were the triggers for them to want to attempt suicide. We find teenagers that have very poor coping skills, poor family support, they are socially isolated and they don't feel competent to disclose or talk about what's going on with them and then they have a very low self-esteem, so all these ingredients together is ready to explode. The only alternative for them is to think that they will drink "gramoxone" or drink a bunch of pills or cut themselves - that's what tends to happen."
"Belize fortunately for us in the Caribbean is not doing that bad. The rates are quite low compare to other countries. When you compare Belize with Central America - the rates are still low compare to Central America. So we are not that bad but people should not die because of suicides. Suicide like the pamphlet says is preventable and depression is treatable. So if we are saying it is preventable - this is what we want to do - prevent it."
And while there has been public concern about the female teen suicides in Benque Viejo this year, Belize's suicide rate continues to be low. So far 16 have been reported this year.