Teen suicides spike, prompting response

ANAHOLA — In light of three recent teen suicides, hundreds of concerned Anahola citizens turned out en masse Tuesday night for a forum on recognizing signs, prevention techniques and grief management.

The forum was arranged by various community organizations, including Life’s Bridges Hawai‘i and the Kaua‘i Police Department.

Gina Kaulukukui, who volunteers full-time as a grief counselor and first responder with Life’s Bridges Hawai‘i’s Bridges Emergency Support Team took the lead, telling 200 or 300 attendees “it takes a community to raise a child.”

Other contributing organizations included the Queen Liliuokalani Children’s Center, Hale Kipa, Kapa‘a High School’s Parent Teacher Student Association, and the Mokihana Project.

Police Chief Darryl Perry, whose officers had reportedly done door-to-door outreach in the neighborhood to encourage attendance, shared stories of professional and personal experience with suicide, and told suicide survivors they should not feel guilty for being unable to see the signs.

Earlier, Perry had described suicide as an “unspoken tragedy that needs to be aired” and expressed his desire to “do something for this community.”

“Because it’s such a sensitive issue, and because it’s so personal within the families, the more we expose it, the more knowledge we give to the public and to the people who are in those situations, and the more they realize the resources that are available to them,” Perry said in a phone interview yesterday.

“There are people out there to take that extra step to help those individuals. (They need) awareness that there’s resources to help them.”

Kaulukukui, an 11-year Anahola resident, said family and friends concerned about a loved one should trust their guts when they sense despair and should ask “are you thinking about killing yourself?” even though it may be uncomfortable, because doing so could save a life.

Melissa Hall, a prevention educator with the YWCA of Kaua‘i, provided contact information for many local resources available to troubled teens and their families.

Hall said yesterday the suicide issue has “crossed the line” and that steps needed to be taken to empower the community’s youth.

The meeting was designed not as a one-time “fix-all,” Kaulukukui said, but as the first step towards healing.

“In order to honor these three children, we have to take a step forward, even with a broken heart,” she said, advocating for a Suicide Prevention Task Force on Kaua‘i and pushing for continued meetings and support groups.

The first of those events will take place Sunday in Wailua as community members join to hold signs across from the Aloha Beach Resort to raise awareness in an attempt to “save a life.”

Sandy Aki, mother to one of the recent suicides, is organizing the sign-holding.

“I lost my daughter, so I am doing whatever I can so nobody else has to feel what I feel right now,” Aki said in a phone interview this week.

For more information, contact Kaulakukui at 651-6637, Aki at 651-4842, Hall at 245-5959, or the YWCA 24-hour crisis line at 245-6362.

∫ Michael Levine, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) or via e-mail at mlevine@kauaipubco.com

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