Maui News

Youth Offer Anti-Suicide Messages to Kick Off Suicide Prevention Month on Maui

September 13, 2021, 8:17 AM HST
* Updated September 14, 6:37 AM
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Cover image: Seventh-grader Rylen Muray (right), who attends Iao Intermediate School, and Jaden Takushi, an 11th-grader at King Kekaulike High School, participate in a suicide prevention sign waving event. Video: Maui Economic Opportunity – Youth Servies / @meo_youthservices on Instagram

About a dozen members of Maui Economic Opportunity’s Youth Services program waved signs on Wednesday, Sept. 8, to help mark Suicide Prevention Week.

Messages included: “Tomorrow Needs You,” “Mālama Iā ‘Oe Iho – Take Care Of Yourself,” and  “Asking for Help is a Sign of Courage”

In a 2019 survey, rates of Maui County high schoolers who felt hopelessness, were seriously considering suicide, made a suicide plan and attempted suicide exceeded Hawaiʻi-wide and national averages.

The sign-waving event to bring public awareness of the issue was organized with the E Ola Hou (To Live Again) Prevent Suicide Maui County Task Force, of which MEO Youth Services is a member. Officials with Mental Health America of Hawai‘i and the University of Hawaiʻi Maui College joined the sign waving to mark Suicide Prevention Week, Sept. 5-11.

Members designed many of the signs that were held up during the event fronting the Queen Ka‘ahumanu Center.

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Additional events surrounding Suicide Prevention Month take place throughout the month of September. Additional details are available here.

About a dozen Maui Economic Opportunity’s Youth Services members held up signs Wednesday, Sept. 8, on Kaahumanu Avenue fronting the Queen Ka‘ahumanu Center. The sign waving was part of events marking Suicide Prevention Week, Sept. 5-11, organized by the E Ola Hou Prevent Suicide Maui County Task Force.
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“The pandemic has not only taken a toll on the physical health of Hawai‘i residents, but also on our mental health,” according to officials with the state Department of Health. “There has been an increase in anxiety, depression and other mental health challenges during this pandemic. Some of this is the result of isolation and disruptions in our relationships and our usual way of doing things. With the eviction moratorium and federal unemployment support ending, many are worried about how they will put food on the table for their family and if they will join the ranks of those without homes,” health officials said.

“Despite the enormous challenges caused by the pandemic, we have not experienced a global rise in suicide rates,” said Dr. Alexander Khaddouma, Psychologist at the Counseling and Student Development Center at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa. “However, other kinds of mental health conditions have been on the rise during the pandemic, which may later contribute to a rise in suicide rates. It’s an important thing to keep our eye on this.”

Dr. Khaddouma noted that suicide rates have consistently been on the rise over the past several decades, particularly among youth.

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“Suicide has been and continues to be one of the largest causes of youth mortality, and is one of the top 10 causes of death across age groups. This makes suicide a significant public health concern. Alongside accidents and homicide, more of our youth die by suicide than any other causes. But suicide is preventable with the proper individual and social supports, and access to professional help.”

Dr. Khaddouma’s 5 “Take Suicide Seriously” Tips

  1. Suicide is a serious problem and any suicide threat or attempt should be taken seriously.
  2. Recognize when someone is in severe emotional pain, such as feeling consistently depressed or sad, hurting themselves, or thinking frequently about suicide or ending their life.
  3. The best thing you can do to help someone is to be a good listener, acknowledge their pain, make sure they are in a safe environment, and encourage them to seek help from a mental health professional.
  4. Don’t be afraid to bring us the topic of suicide with someone who you are worried about – it is often best to ask directly so you can know how to help them.
  5. Get help right away. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911 or visit your nearest emergency room, as severe suicidal ideation can become a life-threatening concern. If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, contact Hawaii CARES, a locally-based program jointly run by the Hawai‘i State Department of Health and the University of Hawai‘i that provides immediate intervention and support through crisis, treatment, and recovery. On O‘ahu, call (808) 832-3100; neighbor island residents may call toll-free at 1 (800) 753-6879.
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