By David Lichtenstein
I have lived on Molokai for less than four years and in that time three people I knew have taken their own lives. For an island of less than 8,000 people, that seems like a lot to me.
The most recent case involved a former student whom I had the opportunity to teach last year at Molokai High School where I work as a substitute teacher.
Gaig Tylor Yap was a quiet and respectful student. He was only 19 when he was flown to Honolulu last week after being treated at Molokai General Hospital for a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He died March 16 at Straub Medical Center in Honolulu.
According to Maui County Police Captain Wallace Tom, Yap phoned the police just before 10 p.m. on March 15 from Pala’au State Park. Police were unable to keep him on the line. By the time emergency responders arrived on the scene, Yap had already been shot.
“All indications are that it is a suicide, but it is still being investigated,” said Tom.
According to the State Department of Health, Maui County recorded the highest suicide rate of any Hawaii county between 2005 and 2009.
While I was unable to find statistics specific to Molokai, clearly this is a local problem, particularly among our youth. What can we do about it?
Health care experts will generally recommend that people considering suicide seek out friends, family, coaches or mentors, religious leaders, doctors, co-workers, therapists or counselors for help.
A suicide and crisis hotline is also a good place to start. The Hawaii hotline can be reached at 1-800-753-6879. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is (800) 273-TALK (8255).
If you know a youth — or anyone for that matter — who is at risk, encourage them to talk to someone about it. It is hard to know exactly what drives a person to take their own life, but the more we can talk about this problem openly the greater chance our community has in dealing with it.