PUHI — The semicolon means the story is not pau, said the Kapaa Middle School choir and ukulele band students who put their henna-ed arms together in a show of unity Saturday after the performance that launched the suicide prevention awareness walk at the Kauai Community College.
“Suicide impacts a lot of people,” said Mary Lardizabal, the Kapaa Middle School teacher and group leader. “This is personal for us — for me — because we get asked to perform for a lot of people, former students, who we lost to suicide.”
More than 150 people braved the afternoon showers and threatening weather to walk the path from the Kauai Community College One Stop Center to the gazebo to demonstrate their support of raising awareness to prevent suicide, the No. 1 leading cause of death in Hawaii for people ages 15 to 24.
“We recognize suicide is a public health problem in Hawaii and suicide prevention is a statewide responsibility,” said Ken Shimonishi, the Kauai finance director who represented Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr., who was participating in a caregiving event on the Big Island.
Members of the Rotary Club of Poipu Beach were mixed in their show of support, some wearing their familiar Rotary shirts while other donned shirts remembering a lost one. The club was recognized as the leading fundraiser with more than $1,250 contributed to the walk presented by the Prevent Suicide Task Force, a voluntary organization aimed at prevention, awareness, training, volunteering and supporting suicide prevention.
“We support the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention which hosted a suicide walk in Waimea earlier,” said Madeline Hiraga-Nuccio, the PSK chairperson. “Prevent Suicide Kauai offers its own walk because all of the funds we raise stays right here on Kauai to help the island’s community in preventing and helping with suicide victims.”
Lori Carranza, the PSK walk volunteer, said the ripple effect of suicide goes out to affect many people, and the goal of walking is to reduce the number of people on Kauai who are affected by suicide.
“The number on Kauai surprised even me,” said Jeffrey Pears of the Kauai Hospice and a volunteer with the PSK walk. “We have lost 22 people to suicide on Kauai this year — and the year is not over. Kauai has the biggest suicide rate per capita than any other state. Of 125 victims, 20 were veterans, and for every completed suicide, there are, loosely speaking, 25 attempts.”
Hiraga-Nuccio corrected those statistics being presented.
“I was just informed by Kauai Police Department of another three people to add to the list,” she said. “That means we have lost 25 people.”
Carranza said the story is not over.
“Prevent Suicide Kauai’s goal is to reduce that number,” she said. “‘Suicide’ is a hard word to say, but be brave. Speak up against the stigma associated with mental illness and drug and alcohol addiction which works against suicide prevention by discouraging those at risk from seeking life-saving help. Encourage everyone to participate in prevention activities. We will walk each year at this time until the number is zero.”