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Nursing instructor Cheryl Puntil receives national recognition for work in psychiatric nursing

Hawai'i Community College Nursing instructor Cheryl Puntil is the 2017 recipient of the Award for Distinguished Service from the American Psychiatric Nurses Association (APNA).

Puntil will be recognized for her commitment, initiative, loyalty, integrity and exceptional and meritorious service at the 31st Annual National APNA Conference in Phoenix, Arizona on October 18. With more than 10,000 members, APNA is the largest professional membership organization committed to the specialty practice of psychiatric mental health (PMH) nursing and wellness promotion, prevention of mental health problems, and the care and treatment of persons with psychiatric disorders.

Puntil and several APNA colleagues worked on the APNA Essential Suicide Competencies for nurse assessment and management of individuals at risk for suicide.

"Through [Cheryl's] vision, determination, and perseverance, the APNA Suicide Competencies initiative became a reality and an exemplar, continues to expand, and addresses both a major national public health problem and gap in nursing education," Puntil's colleagues stated.

"Through [Cheryl's] vision, determination, and perseverance, the APNA Suicide Competencies initiative became a reality and an exemplar, continues to expand, and addresses both a major national public health problem and gap in nursing education," Puntil's colleagues stated.

"It is an incredible honor to receive the American Psychiatric Nurses Association Award for Distinguished Service," said Puntil. "I followed my passion and was lucky to find awesome mentors who paved the way for me to assist in establishing competencies that will change nursing practice and improve care for those at risk for suicide. I was very surprised and grateful for the acknowledgment from my esteemed colleagues who nominated me, and to the APNA board for voting on my behalf to receive the award."

Puntil received her Bachelor's of Science in Nursing from the College of Saint Teresa and her Master's of Science in Nursing from the University of California, Los Angeles. She is certified as an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) and a
Psychiatric Mental Health Clinical Nurse Specialist (PMHCNS-BC).

Puntil joined Hawai'i CC Division of Nursing and Allied Health in 2014. Hawai'i CC offers Associate of Science Degree in Nursing and a Certificate of Achievement in Practical Nursing.

Suicide Prevention at Hawai'i CC

With suicide the second leading cause of death for persons 15-34, Hawai'i Community College has taken an active approach to suicide prevention. The college has established a Mental Wellness and Personal Development Service that offers services to students and leads trainings for faculty, staff and students in Safe Talk and QPR. Puntil has also brought Safe Talk training to Hawai'i CC Nursing students.

Puntil and Hawai'i CC Mental Health Therapist Kate De Soto were invited by UH Hilo Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Farrah-Marie Gomes to serve on the UH Suicide Prevention Committee.

The college will participate in National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month in September with tabling events, sign making and sign waving on September 12 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The goal is to bring awareness to the issue of suicidality and and enhance prevention efforts, said De Soto. 

"We want to reduce the stigma of depression and suicidal thoughts so people have fewer barries to seeking help," De Soto said. "The more we show support as a community, the more people are likely to speak up and the more people are likely to know what to do if someone does speak up."

Students seeking services from the Mental Wellness and Personal Development office can contact De Soto at 934-2706 and kdesoto@hawaii.edu.