LIHUE — Suicide deaths can be prevented with public awareness, education, intervention and a little faith.
Faith-Charlee Rapozo, a 20-year-old student at Kauai Community College, organized a rally on Wednesday to increase awareness and provide support for those affected by suicide.
“We did this for everyone who has ever committed suicide and everyone who has ever lost a family member or friend,” Rapozo said. “We did it to raise awareness and to spread faith and hope.”
More than 50 supporters gathered with signs near the airport to spread their message and wave to passing cars.
“I’m so surprised on the turnout, it was unbelievable,” Rapozo said. “That was awesome. I was really moved by how much people showed up.”
In Hawaii, suicide is the leading cause of death for people ages 15-24, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. There have been 201 deaths in the state this year, according to their 2017 statistics.
There were 13 suicides on Kauai in 2014.
“There has been a lot of suicides here on Kauai, especially with the younger people,” Rapozo said. “I wanted to do something, I just felt like I had to take action. I felt like it would be really good to get the community together and the young adults and the youth for this.”
On average, one person dies by suicide every two days, and more than six times as many people die from suicide than by homicide every year in Hawaii, according to the Foundation for Suicide Prevention. The number of deaths from suicide reflect a total of 4,396 years of potential life lost before age 65.
Rapozo’s 15-year-old sister, Resa, gathered supporters from Kauai High School, including classmates and her English teacher. The rest of the family also supported them by waving at passing motorists for more than two hours.
“People were pulling over and joining us,” Rapozo said. “We lost track of time, we were all just having so much fun. Everybody was beeping their horns and smiling and waving at us. It was awesome.”
She said a lot of people messaged her and shared stories on how suicide impacted them.
“I think it’s very good the young people feel comfortable talking to me,” Rapozo said. “I’ve been in that situation. I just want to be there for people, and I know it’s hard, especially for young kids. They don’t really have anyone they feel they can turn to.”
Depression is one of the major factors contributing to suicide attempts, in addition to problems at home and pressures at school.
“I would say they’re not alone and to please speak up. There’s help and there’s hope, and we care about them. They’re loved and they’re beautiful and they’re perfect, and it will get better,” Rapozo said. “A lot of people at the rally were in similar situations where they thought about or have attempted suicide. We talked about it, and some of them opened up to me. I think we’re making a difference; we are making a difference.”
The KCC’s Suicide Awareness Task Force is planning another rally on Sept. 8.
“If anyone needs someone to talk to, they can always find me on Facebook,” she added. “I love making new friends, and I’d love to be their friend. If they need one, I’m here.”