Highlighting Suicide Prevention, Advocates Share Their Stories to End the Silence

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – September is National Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month.

While mental health advocates work throughout the year to ensure people are not alone, the month is an opportunity for organizations to highlight suicide prevention.

Studies show that in the United States, one in five young people suffers from a mental disorder and at least 20% of adults live with a mental illness.

In Hawaii, suicide remains one of the leading causes of preventable death for Hawaii residents.

According to the State Department of Health, on average, almost four people die by suicide per week.

A total of 1,003 residents died by suicide from 2018 to 2022.

And despite the prevalence of mental health issues, only very few seek treatment or care.

Instead, many choose to deal with it on their own.

There are several reasons people don’t seek help, but experts say stigma is the biggest factor.

Defenders are on a mission to end the silence and break down stigmas by sharing their stories.

In this HNN documentary, we explore what stigma looks like through the lens of nine different people, including a psychiatrist on the Hawaii Youth Suicide Prevention Task Force, and see what they are doing to reduce it.


In Hawaii, suicide remains one of the leading causes of preventable death for Hawaii residents.

While stigma against mental health has diminished in recent years, advocates hope that by normalizing honest conversations about mental health conditions, more people will be encouraged to seek help and take action to reduce stigma in their community.

Here are some ways to get started:

  • Do not isolate yourself: If you have a mental illness, you may be reluctant to tell someone about it. Your family, friends or members of your community can be supportive if they know about your mental illness. Reach out to people you trust to get the compassion, support, and understanding you need.
  • Join a support group: Trust your community resources. Some local and national groups, such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), offer local programs and Internet resources that help reduce stigma by educating people who have mental illness, their families, and the general public.
  • Educate yourself and others: Respond to misperceptions or negative comments by sharing facts and experiences
  • Do treatment: Normalize mental health treatment, as well as other health care. Treatment can provide relief by identifying what’s wrong and reducing symptoms that interfere with your work and personal life.
  • Don’t compare yourself to your illness: You are not a disease. So instead of saying I’m bipolar, say I have bipolar disorder. Instead of calling yourself a schizophrenic, say I have schizophrenia.
  • Speak out against stigma: It can help instil courage in others facing similar challenges and educate the public about mental illness.
  • Choose empowerment over shame: Seeking counseling, educating yourself about your condition, and connecting with others who have mental illnesses can help you gain self-esteem and overcome destructive self-judgment.

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We can all prevent suicide

To mark National Suicide Prevention Month, the state Department of Health and its partners are hosting a series of events to raise awareness of the public health issue and promote mental health resources.

For a list of these events, click here.

In the aftermath of the Maui wildfire disaster, the state is also offering crisis mental health services for those experiencing emotional distress.

For a list of mental health resources, click here.

If you or a loved one is experiencing emotional distress, call or text 988.

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