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Signs of hope

  • Jessica Else / The Garden Island

    Signs line Kawaihau Road promoting open conversation about suicide.

  • Jessica Else / The Garden Island

    Signs along Kawaihau Road promote hope and an active message for suicide prevention.

  • Jessica Else / The Garden Island

    Signs like this can be found alongside homes on Kawaihau Road in Kapahi.

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.”

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Stephanie Shinno, features and community reporter, can be reached at 245-0424 or sshinno@thegardenisland.com.

1 Comments
  1. Debra Kekaualua May 31, 2020 2:22 pm Reply

    mAhalo Kauaihau residents for this Signs of Hope publishing. In 1979 to after Iniki, i was owner of and emergency hotline call center, telephone secretary business and structured, a winner, with a live voice 24-7-365 answer. YWCA rape crisis, AA/NA, KMG independent physicians, on-call medpro staff, Helicopter Hotline, alarm systems of all kinds. In the case of YWCA rape crisis hotline and on-call person needing to drive from kilauea, i often would go to WH ER to meet the victim and stay by their side until support kicked in. my husband, me and a small crew employed also at WH was allowed to use an old hearse repurposed to become the first Kauai EMS, ambulance EMT/MICT covering the entire island of Kauai. Find me on FB, because I have ordered a cell phone, just for the purpose of fielding the “Kauai 808 suicide hotline”. Using call forwarding, a need for a small crew would take the call forwarded calls for a shift and so on! TGI could put the hotline number front page in bold letters and our radio can mention this community effort to bring a hopeful word or interaction with suicidal ideation, depression, and/or alerting the caller THAT we care for and love them to this Hotline degree! Anonymous are the most challenging, but at the least, if you receive any calls, is far better than none. The effort the community brings, to secure activity along this phone line is one of the benefits. If CAN save one, with the right combinations of advertizing, I am confident we can motivate all callers in distress to take charge, switching it up. The Live voice answer are the angels. It worked back then, and it can work again!


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