The public is invited to participate in the third annual suicide prevention and awareness walk, “Working Together to PreventSuicide,” from 3 to 5 p.m. at Kauai Community College Saturday.
KALAHEO — If there’s one thing Michele Kimura will tell you about her son, it’s that he was too good for this earth.
On Aug. 2, four years ago, her son’s life ended and her nightmare began when she witnessed him jump from their 14th-floor Washington, D.C., apartment window to his death.
Kimura is just now able to talk openly about Robert “Bobby” Austin Walker’s death, through tears, but if her story helps someone, it’s all worth it, she said.
After he jumped, she said she ran down to him, bones broken and crushed.
“I was with him when he took his last breath, and that’s when God came in because all of a sudden there were a lot of people around me and they were all praying,” Kimura said.
Volunteering for the Suicide Prevention Task Force is one thing that helps her cope with her son’s death.
“I can’t do anything to get my son back. I can’t,” she said. “I know that I’ll never really be the same. You’re never going to be the same after you have something like this (happen), but I want to try to help anybody else from experiencing the pain of losing a loved one, and I want people that struggle with depression to know that there is hope.”
After her son’s death, Kimura spent two weeks in the psychiatric ward of a hospital because she couldn’t function. The only thing that got her through that time was her relationship with God, she said.
“I was falling apart, just literally falling apart, but I know He was there for me,” she said.
Now she lives to help others.
Kimura said her son was an awesome person and excellent at anything he chose to do. They were very close, and much of the time he lived with her.
“He was very kind, very, very good. We lived in Washington, D.C. when this happened, and he would go down to Dupont Circle where a lot of homeless people go out there and be with those guys, help those guys if they needed help and play chess with those guys,” Kimura said.
Her son was also a talented tennis player and would teach people at Dupont Circle tennis, only charging $5 a lesson.
Before his suicide, Kimura said her son had fallen in love with a woman from another country who took advantage of him for a Green Card. After they’d been married for a while, she just left him one day and got a restraining order against him.
He had a lot of disappointing things like that happen to him, Kimura said.
“There’s a lot of guilt involved because you think and even though you know that was his choice, you think, ‘could I have done something different, could I have done something different to prevent it from happening,’” she said.
What has to happen is the stigma attached to mental illness has to be broken down, she said.
“Some people might have diabetes, you might have a liver problem, you might have cancer; there’s a variety of things and there’s no stigma to that, but there is a stigma attached to mental illness,” she said.
Her son, who was 33 when he died, started having problems in college, and when he went into the military he was diagnosed with boarderline personality disorder.
“What that really is, is you can’t really cope with everyday situations and you might go from thinking someone’s your friend one day to thinking someone isn’t your friend the next day. It’s very tough. It’s hard to fit in. You don’t feel like you fit in anywhere,” she said.
Looking back, Kimura believes her son was struggling with not being able to fit in.
He had problems keeping jobs and the few times Kimura took her son to psychologists, they would say that because of his diagnosis, he was eligible to be on disability benefits.
“I tried to talk to my son about that, but his thing was, that’s like giving up. If I admit I have a disability, I’d be less of a person. So he wouldn’t get the help and I can’t force him and I wanted to try to help him,” she said.
The thing Kimura wants the world to know is mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of.
“It’s not that the people are making a choice. Sometimes it’s what you have,” she said. “The reason people don’t get the help is because they’re afraid something’s going to be attached to them and make them be less of a person, and I believe that is what happened to my son.”
Prior to her son’s suicide, Kimura, who also suffers from depression and has attempted to take her own life, said he told her three times he was going to kill himself.
“I would talk to him at those times and then he would say, ‘No, I won’t really do that.’ There were three times, three times that he told me,” she said.
But you can’t force people to take medication or go to the doctor, she said.
“I got him admitted one time, but they held him for 24 hours and then they let him out,” Kimura said.
One way to end the stigma of mental illness is through awareness, which is why she volunteers with the task force.
“The more people talk about something, other people start to listen,” she said.
The public should know the warning signs of suicide, and if someone says they’re going to kill themselves, those threats should be taken very seriously, she said.
“If they’re saying it, they thought it. If they thought it, they might do it,” she said.
Through therapy, Kimura says she has learned to focus on the good memories of her son.
“You’ve got to try to remember the whole thing and remember there’s a reason things happen even though we don’t understand them. We don’t know why, but I know God is good, God is kind, and I know in the overall realm of things, in the big picture, even though we’re on this Earth now, it doesn’t mean anything,” she said.
For families who have lost loved ones to suicide, Kimura said the best thing to do is to talk about it, to go to therapy, because this is something you can’t do alone.
“Something that traumatic, you can’t. There’s so many things going on inside of you that you can’t just tough it up,” she said.
Kimura said her son would want the world to know that he was an excellent tennis player, that he was a very good man who would never harm anyone.
“He used to have this little saying, ‘if you can’t do anything good to someone, don’t do anything to hurt them,’” she said.
These signs may mean someone is at risk for suicide. Risk is greater if a behavior is new or has increased and if it seems related to a painful event, loss or change.
• Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself
• Looking for a way to kill oneself such as searching online or buying a gun
• 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 feeling isolated
• Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
• Displaying extreme mood swings
If you or someone you know needs help, text ALOHA to 741741, or call the lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Bethany Freudenthal, crime, courts and county reporter, can be reached at 652-7891 or email@example.com.