KAPAHI — Signs of hope are posted in front of homes on Kawaihau Road across from St. Catherine Church in Kapahi that read “You cannot be replaced” and “Suicide is not the answer.”
On the fence across the street, another sign reads: “Suicide: we need to talk about it.”
Signs with similar messages of hope and encouragement have popped up around the island in other places as well, like Koloa, after a rash of suicide reports involving young men rocked Kaua‘i earlier this month.
Kapahi resident Chucky Rapozo Sr. and his family are responsible for the signs that decorate their corner of Kawaihau Road. They decided to post the messages after two people died due to suicide down the street.
“One of them came here, to my home, a day before (he died),” Rapozo said. “After he took his life, I started second-guessing myself. Asking myself ‘Why I never see the signs?’”
Rapozo said many community members helped to create the signs now fixed to the side of his house, in yards and further along the street. He hopes the signs will help save lives and help people talk openly about suicide.
Rapozo’s son Anthony Minoru helped make some signs of hope alongside his father, with the goal of inspiring people experiencing thoughts of suicide to seek help. He’s lost a couple of friends to suicide, and said the subject hits close to home.
“I feel good about this. We gotta do this so if anybody can see this, we can help them,” said Minoru. “People think that nobody cares. This might give them an extra thing to think about to help them change their life.”
Rapozo encourages parents to listen more to their keiki.
“You need to be aware and keep an eye on your family. You have to do more listening than talking to your kids sometimes. Have them talk to you, sit them down and do more listening,” said Rapozo.
Rapozo says the consequences of coronavirus have contributed to the suicide rate on Kaua‘i, but said it has been a longstanding issue on the island. He’s had thoughts of suicide himself, he said. Both Minoru and Rapozo said seeking help and actively pursuing positive thoughts help through dark times.
Gina Kaulukukui, co-founder and program director of Life’s Bridges, an organization that promotes suicide awareness and provides grief and bereavement services, said she’s seen the signs of hope around the island, and loves their messages.
“I appreciate that the person responsible for these signs had the courage to put them up. I have seen them several times, and each time I do, I am grateful for them,” said Kaulukukui. “These signs offer two important messages: the first is that someone cares, and the second is that we do need to talk about suicide.”
She continued: “We can’t break the stigma around suicide unless we are willing to talk about it. We need to make it OK for people to need help and support. Signs like these are just one of the ways we can help those at risk.”
Stephanie Shinno, features and community reporter, can be reached at 245-0424 or email@example.com.