Hawaiʻi's Next Generation Speaks Up on Suicide

Sep 14, 2017

Youth Leadership Council presented on suicide prevention at the 2016 Hawaii Children & Youth Summit.
Credit State Department of Health

Events are being held across the state this week for National Suicide Prevention Month. Suicide is still a taboo subject for many, and the next generation is taking action. HPR’s Kuʻuwehi Hiraishi has this story.

According to the state Department of Health, suicide is the leading cause of fatal injuries for people ages 15 to 44. Despite the statistic, talking about suicide can make people uncomfortable.  

“I mean it is a scary thing when a friend or a loved one admits that they’re thinking about taking their life,” says Pike, “It is very hard not to be afraid.”

Mara Pike oversees youth suicide prevention programs for Mental Health America Hawai’i. She says getting youth to talk to adults about suicide is an even bigger challenge.

“There’s not a lot of trust. There are not necessarily supportive relationships with adults, and so they talk to their friends,” says Pike, “They tend to feel much more supported by their peers. But we want to make sure the peers have the information on how to help.”

That’s where the Youth Leadership Council for Suicide Prevention comes in. The council includes 60 youth from across the island chain that are trained to be resources for peers in their communities when it comes to suicide prevention.

“The prevention efforts are to talk about the information, share the resources, encourage people to open up about it if they’re struggling,” says Pike, “But once somebody has started down those warning signs of thinking about it, making a plan, potentially attempting, it’s no longer prevention.”

The youth council formed in 2015, and is currently looking to expand.

“It is open and available and we’re always recruiting youth across the state from ages 14 to 25 willing to learn about the topic of suicide and how to talk about it and how to remove that fear around something so scary,” says Pike.

By teaching the youngest of our population to have this conversation, we create an entire generation where suicide can no longer stay silent.