PUHI — Trachelle Iwamoto did not walk alone in Saturday’s third annual Working Together to Prevent Suicide Prevention and awareness walk.
She carried a picture of her good friend Dylan, who took his own life in June. He was 13 years old.
Iwamoto remembers Dylan well and misses him. In the picture she held, he is smiling. She wishes that something more could have been done to help him.
So Saturday, under cloudy skies and joined by about 150 others on the mile-long walk at Kauai Community College, she walked with a heavy heart, and memories of a friend.
“I want to let people know that someone you never think would commit suicide, could,” she said.
She urged people to be aware of what’s going on with others because something can happen that affects them and the way they look at life.
“It changes your whole perspective,” Iwamoto said.
Her grandmother, Leilani Mindoro, walked next to her.
Mindoro wanted to support her granddaughter, and to let youth know that no matter what happens, suicide is not the answer.
“There is always hope out there,” she said.
The walk organized by Prevent Suicide Kauai Task Force included guest speakers who outlined the impact of suicide and what can be done to prevent it.
Education, intervention, awareness and support were cited as goals of the gathering.
Nancy Deeley, Hawaii Department of Health suicide prevention coordinator, said everyone can do their part to prevent others from taking their own lives.
“You don’t have to have great gestures,” she said. “Just that little day by day is important.”
Last year on Kauai, 24 people took their lives, and hundreds more attempted suicide.
“We don’t actually need data to tell us what a critical time this is,” Deeley said.
Michael Ceurvorst, with the DOH Kauai Community Mental Health Center in Lihue, joined the walk for personal reasons. He has had about 10 friends and family commit suicide.
While it’s difficult to pinpoint causes, suicide can be the result of chemical imbalances in the brain, mental disorders or social and personal issues.
Ceurvorst said he met young people who were crying at the walk and still grieving the loss of a friend.
“So I think this day is helping them as well as older people like myself,” he said.
Gina Kaulukukui with Life’s Bridges said her father took his life when she was 4.
“It’s as though it happened yesterday,” she said.
In October 2008, she said, six people committed suicide on Kauai, and she responded each time.
Kaulukukui said it affects the family, the community, the island and the state. And it is a problem that is not going away.
“It is a pivotal year on the island,” she said with conviction.
All people need to get involved. She called on the crowd to be willing to ask the question, “Are you thinking about suicide?”
“Every single person on this island can be a lifesaver,” she said. “That’s what we need for change. We need to be a voice.”
By raising awareness and recognition of someone at risk, by offering help, breaking down stigmas around mental illness, the task force hopes to prevent suicides.
The task force, Kaulukukui added, has a long way to go.
“I guarantee we will always be taking one step forward,” she said. “And we will be bringing hope right along with us.”
Bill Buley, editor-in-chief, can be reached at 245-0457 or firstname.lastname@example.org.