In Your Corner: Suicide prevention works
The year is new. Perhaps this is the year there will be no suicides on Kaua‘i. According to Gina Kaulukukui of Life’s Bridges, Hawai‘i has the highest per capita suicides in the nation, and 12.8 percent of all high school students in Hawai‘i’s public schools have attempted suicide. This is a heartbreaker, and needs to change.
On Kaua‘i alone, 10 people of all ages completed suicide last year, and that doesn’t include the drug overdoses that occurred that we don’t read about. Perhaps if we did read that a person died of a drug overdose, others contemplating drug usage would think twice about trying it. We all understand the desire of families to protect the memory of their loved ones, but perhaps that loved one would be happy if his/her life helped prevent another from using drugs.
Things can change. Life’s Bridges works with the University of Hawai‘i, which funded a grant to train adolescents to recognize someone at risk for suicide, while teaching participants some life skills of their own to help them get through the bumps in the road.
Humans can be very resilient, which means able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult situations, but it is easier with support. It is well recognized that when teens have problems, they go to peers (same-age friends) to talk. But Gina also teaches that teens should have one trusted adult to turn to in emergency whether it is a trusted aunty, coach, bus driver, friend’s parent, minister, etc. She suggests putting them as an important contact in their phones. She will teach the class wherever there is a group of adolescents who want to learn.
The good news is that suicide prevention works. People learn that sometimes it’s just a “bad day,” and not a bad life. There are many counselors and helpers available on Kaua‘i to help a student handle the crisis that is making them feel so overwhelmed. There are processing (thinking) skills that can be learned, such as how to “self soothe” and relax until the mind is not consumed by the emotions.
Gina is also the director of the Prevent Suicide Kaua‘i Task Force. She says there are three concrete steps to learn that might help us help others who are feeling overwhelming pain.
1. Know the suicide warning signs. These came from www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
• Talking about wanting to die or to kill themselves.
• Looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching online or buying a gun.
• Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live.
• Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain.
• Talking about being a burden to others.
• Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs.
• Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly.
• Sleeping too little or too much.
• Withdrawing or isolating themselves. (They don’t want to see others.)
• Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.
• Displaying extreme mood swings.
• Talking about giving away their valuable things.
• Saying something like, in a depressed way, “Tell my girlfriend I love her.”
• Saying, “I just can’t go on,” or “I don’t want to go on anymore.”
2. If you hear or suspect these things, ask the question, “Are you thinking of killing yourself?” She says that it is better to ask and have them say “no” rather than just ignoring the situation. Gina said that no one likes to ask this question, but by asking, it has saved many peoples’ lives, and the more we get used to asking and hearing it, the easier it will become to ask it in a crisis.
3. Follow your gut: Even if they say “no,” but you just feel that they are considering it, tell their parents, or an older sibling, or someone you know who cares for them, AND you can give them one of two crisis numbers. You can offer to be with your friend when they call a hotline. And, Gina suggests that you can use the crisis number on their behalf if they don’t call it. Make the call. Suicide prevention works.
The Hawai‘i State Department of Health’s youth crisis hotline is 1 (800) 753-6879. This was brought to my attention by Theresa Koki, Life Choices Kaua‘i Coordinator. A test call worked. On Kaua‘i this is called the Crisis Mobile Outreach (CMO) Program, under the directorship of Harold Ames of our local Child and Family Services organization. Make the call. Suicide prevention works.
This hotline is especially for children and adolescents who are overwhelmed, and just don’t know what to do. Gina stated that many adolescents can take a lot of difficulty, but there will be one final straw that topples them over the edge. TALK TO SOMEONE instead. “CMO services provide support, consultation, assessment, and referrals to all youth whose immediate health and safety may be in jeopardy due to mental health issues.”
“Services are free and available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year in a variety of settings including the youth’s home, school, local emergency facilities, and other related settings,” their flyer states.
Now don’t get sidetracked by the “mental health issues.” Being very depressed is a mental health issue. We go to the doctor if we don’t feel well in our bodies. We go to a counselor if we don’t feel well (at peace, happy) in our minds.
The National Suicide Prevention Hotline number is 1 (800) 273-8255 (TALK). They can also service the hearing and speech impaired with TTY Equipment at 1 (800) 799-4889.
Gina will have a table at the Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration of Peace event at the Kukui Grove Center food court on Monday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Or visit preventsuicidekauai.org or call Gina at 808-651-6637.
Make the call. Suicide prevention works.