Student's suicide prompts reminder that help is available - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Student's suicide prompts reminder that help is available

Christopher Thee Christopher Thee
Kawika Stant Kawika Stant
Nancy Kern Nancy Kern

By Brooks Baehr - bio | email

KAHUKU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The communities of Kahuku and Laie are mourning the loss of Keoni Tafuna, a 17-year old Kahuku High School student who took his own life Monday.

Tafuna's suicide has professionals reminding people that suicide help-lines are open 24-hours a day. Suicide prevention organizations are just a click or phone call away. And free suicide intervention workshops are available to people who would like to learn how to recognize people in high risk categories.

Tafuna was a co-captain on the Kahuku Red Raiders football team.

News of his death spread quickly. The high school held an assembly to address the situation and offer counseling to students. Monday afternoon a group of friends and family gathered at a home in Laie to mourn Tafuna's passing.

"He was a leader overall, he maintained his grades in school, he worked hard on and off the field, carried a 3.8, had very good morals, he was a strong member of his religion," said teammate Christopher Thee.

Tafuna was in court earlier in November when the Red Raiders' football team was denied an injunction that would have allowed it to play in the state tournament.

"This community means something because it keeps get hit with tragedy, needs to stick together and stay strong," said longtime friend Kawika Stant.

According to numbers compiled by the state Department of Health 651 people in Hawaii committed suicide in the five year span from 2005 through 2009. Hawaii is ranked 43rd in suicides per capita. The highest risk age group is adults ages 40 to 64, but many teens appear headed for trouble.

"Of all of the 50 states, the students in Hawaii report proportionately highest numbers for ideation of suicide. That means thinking about suicide, planning a suicide, and attempting a suicide," said Nancy Kern, Suicide Prevention Coordinator for the Department of Health.

Kern told Hawaii News Now people at the greatest risk include people struggling with depression, mental illness, alcohol and drug abuse, repeated bullying, and volatile households.

"It is probably not one thing. It is probably several things that are happening in the person's or the teen's life at this particular moment," she added.

Kern said with proper training it is possible to spot someone who is suicidal and maybe save their life.

"We've got a couple of trainings. One is called The Gate Keeper which is especially for teachers and others who may have access to students who are at risk," Kern explained.

Kern urges anyone interested in learning more about suicide prevention or anyone who is contemplating suicide to call these phone numbers and visit these web sites.

On Oahu the suicide prevention hotline is 832-3100. The number on the neighbor islands is (800) 753-6879.

People can register for suicide intervention workshops at http://hawaii.gov/health/.

Other valuable web sites include the Suicide Prevention Helpline at http://suicidehotlines.com/hawaii.html, and Mental Health America of Hawaii at http://www.mentalhealth-hi.org/teensuicideprevention.

National web links include the Suicide Prevention Resource Center at http://www.sprc.org/ (or 1-800-273-talk), and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention at http://wwwafsp.org.

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