Suicide takes 1 life every 3 days
Mental health experts say ignoring warning signs does not help troubled people cope
STORY SUMMARY »
Suicide is the leading cause of injury death in Hawaii, according to the Department of Health's Injury Prevention & Control Program.
» Suicide is the leading cause of injury death in Hawaii.
» About 123 people commit suicide in Hawaii every year. That is about one person in every three days. About 870 people attempt to commit suicide every year.
» Hawaii has the highest percentage of high school students, 17 percent, who reported "making a suicide plan" among 39 reporting states.
Source: Department of Health Injury Prevention Program, 2007 and the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System survey.
Call for help
If someone you know is feeling overwhelmed with a crisis or needs mental health services, call ACCESS line at 832-3100 on Oahu or (800) 753-6879 on the neighbor islands. The hot line is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
To further push the issue of suicide prevention to the forefront, the Department of Health sponsored the first statewide conference on suicide prevention yesterday at the Hilton Waikiki Prince Kuhio Hotel.
About 123 people in Hawaii commit suicide every year, according to the Injury Prevention & Control Program. That is about one person every three days who commits suicide, state health officials said. And for every person who commits suicide, 12 people attempt to kill themselves.
The state has come up with plans and a task force to reduce the suicide rate, start an awareness campaign and develop suicide prevention training.
Art Tani, suicide prevention coordinator for the Department of Health, said more resources are needed to implement more support groups for survivors of suicide. The number of staff members and volunteers does not meet the demand of those who seek assistance.
"People call but they're not always available," Tani said.
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Curtis Mitchell Bolton was a smart, attractive young man, popular among his peers, said his mother, Iris Bolton of Georgia.
But he also was a "sunshine and tears" youngster, she said. One minute he was happy, the next he was sad.
On Feb. 19, 1977, Bolton, 20, was found dead in his bedroom from a self-inflicted gunshot wound after his girlfriend broke up with him.
Bolton's mother struggled with guilt and wondered how she failed to see the signs, especially given her role as a counselor at a family center in Atlanta. At that time, no one talked about suicide.
After 2 1/2 years of therapy, Bolton's mother realized that talking openly about her son's suicide helped her cope with it, as well as help other families.
She founded the Survivors of Suicide support group in Atlanta, which has become a model for support programs throughout the nation.
Bolton was one of the key speakers yesterday who kicked off the state's first statewide suicide prevention conference, called "Building a Safety Net -- Getting Connected for Suicide Prevention." The conference is a two-day event at the Hilton Waikiki Prince Kuhio Hotel.
More than 200 people attended the first day of the conference, where Bolton emphasized that the only way to address the issue is to talk about it.
Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona, who also spoke at yesterday's conference, said, "It's an everyday fact of life. It is something that we can't hide from. It is something that we have to deal with. And if we're not going to step up and talk about it, then we suffer the consequences."
Sessions were held on such issues as teens talking about suicide, suicide among the elderly and suicide prevention in Hawaii.
Suicide is considered the leading cause of injury death in Hawaii, according to the Injury Prevention & Control Program. That puts it above falls, motor vehicle accidents, poisoning, pedestrian accidents and drowning.
Dr. Chiyome Fukino, director of the Department of Health, recalled the shock that enveloped her when her husband's adult son committed suicide. Then, about 2 1/2 years ago, his adult daughter also decided to take her own life.
"I couldn't believe it," she said. "How did we miss this?"
In college, Fukino said she sought guidance from a campus psychologist on how she could help two friends who were acting "weird." The psychologist told her to mind her own business.
For a while, she thought she might have overreacted. But a couple of months later, one committed suicide. About a month later the other attempted to kill herself, but her parents caught her in time, Fukino said.
She told attendees that they have an opportunity at the conference to learn about identifying symptoms to help those in a crisis.
Based on figures compiled between 2000 and 2004, Hawaii had 50.7 suicides per 100,000 population, placing it 41st among states.
The highest was Alaska, followed by Nevada, New Mexico, Montana and Wyoming. The lowest was New York, preceded by Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Connecticut.
In Hawaii a Suicide Prevention Steering Committee was created in March 2005 to develop a strategic plan and serve as an advisory group to the Department of Health. Last year, the Suicide Prevention Task Force was established to develop a statewide suicide prevention action plan to reduce the suicide rate, launch a public awareness campaign and develop suicide prevention training programs.
» Threatening or talking of wanting to hurt or kill himself/herself
» Looking for ways to kill himself/herself by seeking access to firearms, available pills or other means
» Talking or writing about death, dying or suicide
» Displaying hopelessness
» Expressing rage or uncontrolled anger
» Acting recklessly or engaging in risky activities, seemingly without thinking
» Expressing feelings of being trapped, like there is no way out
» Increasing alcohol or drug use
» Withdrawing from friends and family
» Exhibiting anxiety and/or agitation
» Experiencing disturbances in sleep patterns
» Dramatic mood changes
Source: Dr. Jerry Reed of the Suicide Prevention Action Network USA