I have been thinking about this fact of our many Kauai suicides,* especially among our youth. Obviously we are in a state of imbalance if they feel they need to take their own lives. * (Rate of 76.6 people per 100,000 on Kauai. July 26, 2015 — based on state Department of Health statistics)
I believe that our imbalance is in our understanding of life itself, the life of the island.
On Kauai we have our many visitors and the residents who serve them, participating in and worshiping our island’s natural beauty and hoping that beauty does not diminish as our population increases, but doing little to sustain it. Helicopters and zip lines, fine dining and ATV rides, right along with ‘fat boy’ trucks, three jobs, kids in school, too little time and too many bills to pay.
Then there are those users of the island who serve the interests of their “land owners” who profit from using the island’s land in ways that sustain their operations. Cattle and dairy, chem-seeds and weapons testing. With employees serving a larger, “corporate” mission.
What hope is there for young people of Kauai to understand and appreciate the life of the land when the existence of potentially fruitful land is continually smothered by our excessive economy of more, always more, for the visitor industry and corporate farms?
Among all these island residents are those people who are dedicated to advocating for the island’s limited growth. Their interests, beyond their families, are the regular maintenance of the island’s many varied forms of life, including running, flowing water, diverse and healthy forests, calm and clear wetlands, an abundance of independent farms growing a strongly diverse abundance of fruits, vegetables and herbs and, finally, several wild coastlines preserved in perpetuity. These are those people who consider Kauai as a living place with breath and living heart, who want to make Kauai safe and secure as they provide for their families. Supporting visitor and resident corporations, but not becoming smothered by them.
What part do our youth play in our plans for the island? Do they appreciate our bulging visitor industry and sprawling chemical agriculture? How do we teach them to see our island herself? How can they learn that our island can love and sustain them through such trials as the contemplation of taking their own lives, committing suicide?
Young people need to feel safe, to feel included, and be able to imagine themselves a part of something. That something should be alive and be fruitful for themselves and their ohana in order for them to succeed.
Take a walk in the country with a trusted friend, breath the clean mountain air, think pure and innocent thoughts for awhile; thoughts of suicide will diminish. Let’s give them the living island and more when we are able.
Mark Jeffers is a resident of Hanapepe.