The SRPMIC Prevention and Intervention Program hosted SafeTALK, a three-hour workshop and training opportunity on suicide awareness on Wednesday, March 16.
Building a Community Safe From Suicide
By Sheila Begay
Au-Authm Action News

Every 13 minutes, someone completes a suicide.

Finances, divorce, loss of a loved one, dealing with the foster care system, job loss, credit card debt, illness and caregiving, drugs/alcohol and bullying are all circumstances that take a toll on our mental health, sometimes leading to suicide. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2013 there were 41,149 completed suicides in the United States alone.

Here within the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, we may not hear about it as often, but that’s not to say it isn’t a problem here. Some of us may have personally dealt with a loved one who has attempted suicide or perhaps lost their life to suicide. In one way or another, it impacts all of us.

The SRPMIC Prevention and Intervention Program has hosted various workshops and classes on suicide awareness. Most recently, on Wednesday, March 16, SRPMIC hosted SafeTALK, a three-hour workshop and training opportunity for interested individuals who want to become more comfortable with talking about suicide and getting at-risk individuals the help they need. The event was held at Two Waters Building A.

What would you say to someone if they admitted that they were having thoughts of suicide? A majority of people who haven’t had previous suicide-awareness training might not know exactly what to do or say.

“I remember thinking how easy it would’ve been to just ignore it. That was one of the scariest feelings,” said a participant who was informed by a teen that he had suicidal thoughts.

During the SafeTALK workshop, Community Health Educator Elma Dawahoya and Education Outside the Box Executive Director Hilary Cummings guided 10 participants toward a better understanding of what to say and do if they ever came across this situation again.

SafeTALK emphasizes the importance of recognizing the warning signs of suicide, communicating with the person at risk, and getting help or resources for the person at risk.

The session covered the basics of suicide, how to connect with your attitudes about suicide and understanding the concerns of persons at risk.

“People need to learn how to pay attention to their intuition,” said Cummings. “Quite often, people will feel like, ‘I don’t know what to say’ or “If I do say something, I might lead them to it if I bring up suicide.’ That’s a common known myth. That’s not true at all. It’s because we’re afraid of it ourselves that we don’t talk about it and we don’t want to bring up suicide. Intuition says otherwise. Really, it’s about paying attention to your intuition.”

“I remember when there was a time when domestic violence wasn’t spoken about, but now it’s out there. That’s what we’re trying to do with suicide: provide education and get more people comfortable with talking about suicide. Then they can step forward and help,” said Dawahoya.

“You have the Community taking care of the Community. To me this is very valuable. It’s my passion to see Community members helping each other,” said Cummings.

People can be empowered to understand what suicide is, look for possible signs and learn where to go or whom to call if you or someone you know needs help. Individuals need to learn to become comfortable with talking about suicide, so they can intervene and possibly save a life.

According to the Arizona Suicide Prevention Coalition, there are an estimated 25 suicide attempts for every suicide completion in the nation, and each suicide intimately affects at least six other people.

“There’s a lot of stigma about mental health, culture and tradition in many Native cultures. So if we have more people in the Community who can be there to help one another and do the first-aid for suicide, then we can ultimately help more people,” Cummings added. “Research has shown the value of doing this. The more people we can teach this to, the more people we can help. We’ll have more eyes, ears, minds and hearts on the job to help each other.”

If you or anyone you know is experiencing any of these feelings, call the SRPMIC Central Intake Center to set up an appointment for intake and assessment at (480) 362-7350. If it’s an emergency, call the 24-hour Crisis Intervention by dialing 911.

SafeTALK aims to create suicide-safer communities. For more information about future SafeTALK workshops here in the Community, contact Community Health Educator Elma Dawahoya by phone at (480) 362-5447/5616 or by email at

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