LIHUE — The statistics on suicide are alarming — somewhere in the world, a person commits suicide every 40 seconds, said Gina Kaulukukui Saturday at Kukui Grove Center.
“Every 41 seconds, someone else has to cope with the loss,” said Kaulukukui. “Everyone should learn to recognize the symptoms of suicide.”
Kaulukukui was joined by Bridget Arume and some of the students of Kauai Leaders Against Suicide group at Kauai High School in offering candles of remembrance and information on suicide during the International Survivors of Suicide Day event at Kukui Grove Center.
“In Hawaii last year, we lost six people to suicide,” Kaulukukui said. “This year, with a month remaining, we have confirmed at least 12 victims of suicide. That’s double the last year’s rate.”
She said suicide awareness needs to increase, and Life’s Bridges and the Kauai Suicide Task Force is willing to work with faith-based groups and other organizations to teach people to recognize the signs of suicide as well as steps needed to help curb suicide.
“Just today, while I was waiting in line to pay for the Life Savers for the table, I met a lady who told me about her son who twice attempted suicide,” Kaulukukui said. “She was frustrated over not knowing what resources are available.”
A survivor of suicide herself, Kaulukukui said having young people take interest in suicide prevention and spreading awareness is a positive sign. That’s because not only do the young people learn, they also teach others.
“I had a friend who was dealing with suicide,” said Britnee Pablo, president of KLAS. “I see a lot of teens struggling and thought it was important to get involved.”
The goal of KLAS is growth, said Arume, who formed the group three years ago and serves as its adviser.
“We just got through with training at the Kauai Community College, who is interested in starting a group at its campus,” Arume said. “We also have interest from Kapaa High School to have a KLAS chapter there.”
Giana Hoffman, a student at Kauai High School, joined KLAS last month.
“I lost a friend to suicide,” Hoffman said. “I found out I was doing things the wrong way. I didn’t feel right. Then I met Bridget and she told me about KLAS.”
Arume’s biggest obstacle is to find sponsors who are able to get the programs going. The need for the group at Kapaa High School was demonstrated by the student-based “Encourage the Heart,” which won the business plan competition Thursday night at the school’s Shark Tank.
“We would all love to bring back those we lost to suicide,” Kaulukukui said. “But we can’t. We can honor them, and move forward.”