‘Reaching out, saving lives’

LIHUE — Communities across Kauai will come together Thursday to increase awareness about suicide prevention by waving flags to promote the idea of “hope and help.”

As a part of National Suicide Prevention Week, ceremonies will take place at five locations in Kauai and will coincide with suicide prevention events in other cities across the nation to join in solidarity leading up to World Suicide Prevention Day on Thursday.

“The way we can prevent suicides is awareness,” said Gina Kaulukukui, director of Life’s Bridges, a volunteer-based organization on Kauai that helps families deal with death.

This year’s national theme is “Preventing Suicide: Reaching Out and Saving Lives.”

“As a society, we need to do more to prevent suicide,” said Larry Walter, Prevent Suicide Hawaii Task Force, Chair. “Increasing public awareness of this health problem, including warning signs and risk factors, is one of the best prevention tools we have.”

Kaulukukui said getting people to see the warning signs could save a life. She said even little things could make a huge difference.

“Giving away personal belonging, sleeping patterns or eating patterns have changed,” she said. “Anything that is out of the normal. A dramatic change in behavior or something that we wouldn’t think as a red flag.”

Depression is like an “on-going chronic illness,” said Stephanie Misaki Whiting, a licensed mental health counselor at Whiting Professional Counseling.

“It takes up their whole energy,” she said.

During 2010 and 2014, suicide was the second-leading cause of death in Hawaii for those between the ages of 15 and 34, according to the Hawaii Department of Health.

As a counselor, Whiting takes threats of suicide seriously.

“Sometimes people come and problems have really gotten them down,” she said. “But we have to make sure they are not an immediate threat to themselves or others.”

There are certain things she looks for when people walk into her office.

“Have they attempted to hurt themselves in the past and do they have a plan?” she said.

That’s why it’s important to know the warning signs, Kaulukukui said.

“It’s not about dying, it’s about ending that pain,” she said. “Most of us are not trained to see it.”

Thursday’s flag wavings will take place between 3:30 and 4:30 p.m. in Hanapepe by the fire station; near Kauai Community College on the farmer’s market side; near Lihue Airport; in Kapaa town at Kapaa Triangle; and at the Princeville shopping center

“The essence of the sign waving is about hope and help,” Kaulukukui said.

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