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Talk to teens, Kaua’i mom urges

Sandy Aki recently lost a daughter to suicide.

Now she has a message: If you’re a teenager struggling with thoughts of suicide, please talk to someone, anyone you trust.

Aki and several dozen other concerned citizens held signs at the side of Kuhio Highway, south of the Wailua River yesterday to keep attention focused on an ongoing emergency — teen suicide.

The signs, written with messages such as “Life is Precious” and “Honk 4 Life,” were meant as a reminder that teen suicide is an issue the community needs to keep a focus on so it can do whatever it can to provide options to teens who, in their darkest hours, are convinced that none exist.

“We want to let our teens know that we’re here as a community,” Aki said. “The entire community.”

She said that being out with other supporters has helped her feel some good might be coaxed from pain of her recent, terrible events.

She added that she has been deeply moved by the number of people who have come forward to offer hope, prayers, and a willingness to pitch in with the education effort.

“We’re going to be starting a support group,” she added.

Aki said that it was heartening to see local leaders appear at the sign demonstration, including JoAnn Yukimura and Mayor Bill “Kaipo” Asing.

Asked what message she wanted to get out to the community, Aki said that, mostly, the signs were intended to help keep Kaua‘i residents conscious of the problem.

But she said she would especially like the teens of Kaua‘i to know that, no matter how desperate they might be feeling, they might be pleasantly surprised by what can come from reaching out.

Aki said that it’s important for teens to know that, although there are now many excellent official resources that can help, there are plenty of caring people to talk to outside those official channels as well.

There are always people who want desperately to help, she said, and will if they are just given the opportunity to do so.

Sometimes, of course, that’s difficult to believe when a teen can’t imagine making it through the next few days. That’s why friends and family have to try that much harder to get the teenager to open up.

Aki said that adults — not just parents, but uncles, aunties, doctors, friends and others — need to be familiar with, and stay open to, the signs a teenager often exhibits when they’re thinking of taking their own life. If they see those signs — and even if they don’t — it’s critical to keep talking with their teenagers. 

“It’s not just for the teens. It’s for adults to ask questions and talk story to the kids,” she said.

• Luke Shanahan, business writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 251) or lshanahan@kauaipubco.com

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