Archive for the ‘Community’ category

Suicide Prevention Month: It’s okay to ask for help

September 10, 2019

One morning, a woman called the office, crying. She asked for the phone number to a suicide hotline. I tried to stay calm as I gave her two phone numbers she could call.

I didn’t know if she needed the hotline for herself or a loved one. I don’t know if she received the help she needed. I may never know how things turned out. And she may never know how she changed me.

Because of this woman, and this moment when she reached out for help, I started paying more attention to suicide awareness and prevention.

In Hawaii, suicide is the leading cause of injury-related death. There are an average of 190 deaths by suicide a year and an additional 910 nonfatal attempts, according to the Hawaii Department of Health’s EMS and Injury Prevention System Branch.


September is suicide prevention and awareness month, and today – September 10 – is World Suicide Prevention Day. Today, and all month long, survivors, families, community members, and mental health advocates and organizations are coming together to promote suicide prevention awareness.

Here are a few ways you can help make a difference:

* Find out about suicide risk factors by downloading a fact sheet, Risk of Suicide, from The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

* Learn how to talk to someone who may be thinking about suicide or who need someone to talk to. #BeThe1To shares the 5 Steps for talking with someone who may be thinking about suicide.

* Write about suicide in a way that helps reduce the risk of suicide contagion (exposure to suicide or suicidal behaviors that can result in an increase in suicide or suicidal behaviors) – and include stories of hope and recovery. free guide for reporter, bloggers, and anyone who comments about suicide on social media.

* Walk in support of suicide awareness and prevention. On September 14, 2019 join the Out of the Darkness Walk in Honolulu or on September 28, 2019 in Kahului with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Hawaii. On October 12, 2019, join the NAMIWalks in Honolulu and Hilo.

*  Donate to your local crisis center, AFSP Hawaii, NAMI Hawaii, or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

For more ideas about how to take action, download a free toolkit from The Suicide Prevention Resource Center has a free toolkit with ideas to take action.


If you or someone you know is in an emergency, call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255), text 741741 ALOHA, or call 911 immediately.


A view of Honolulu views

May 28, 2019

“Each time Honolulu city lights stir up memories in me
Each night Honolulu city lights bring me back again”
Honolulu City Lights, Keola Beamer and Kapono Beamer, 1979

The City and County of Honolulu is conducting a Honolulu Public Views Study. The goal is to prioritize views of natural and manmade features that we need to protect. It’s a chance for us to share our opinions about what we want to see when we look out a of a high-rise building, glance out the window of a rail car, drive along scenic roads, or hike along mountain trails.

I was curious about the study itself. Would we get to comment about building height restrictions? Would they ask what we wish we could see when we step outside our front door? Would they ask about the trade-off between affordable housing and building higher condominiums?

Not quite. The survey literally asks us to identify mountain ranges, manmade buildings, and ocean views that we think are important and should be protected. It seems to be written to future residents of high-rise buildings, with the goal of approving building permits for more high-rise buildings in the future.

Here is my view about Honolulu views:

Protect views of nature. In the study, manmade features (buildings and landmarks) are weighted equally with natural features. Buildings age and neighborhoods change over time. We are already protecting valuable sites – there are 1,384 designated historic places in Hawaii, according to the State Historic Preservation Division (as of 4/25/19). The view of the sites from somewhere else isn’t protected.

Instead, we need to focus on protecting views of nature. Our mountain ranges, valleys, marinas, ocean views, and islands are what make us Hawaii. Like some homeowners’ associations, we can focus on protected “view channels” to ensure that new buildings minimize their impact on existing buildings – including impacts on trade winds, utilities, traffic, and parking.

Enforce existing building height restrictions – with graduated limits. The study asks us to choose between Mauka or Makai, sunrise or sunset, one mountain range over another. It suggests that if the public doesn’t prioritize a view, Honolulu would be open to approving even more building height limit variances.

I think we need enforce the building height restricts we have and create more graduated building height limits. For example, Waikiki increasing building heights, from 220 feet on the Diamond Head side to 350 feet on the Ala Moana side, according to a Honolulu Magazine article.

Protect Honolulu’s natural skyline. The study asks whether we want a recognizable urban Honolulu skyline. I think we already have several iconic skylines: the view of Diamond Head, the view of Waikiki Beach, even the view of Hanauma Bay. Almost instantly recognizable, and set apart from other urban skylines. Older than the Golden Gate Bridge, more tranquil than the Eiffel Tower, more verdant than the Great Pyramid.

There’s still time to take the online survey, which closes on May 31, 2019 at

Have you taken the Honolulu Public Views Survey? Do you believe Honolulu should have a recognizable skyline? What views stir up memories in you?

Three ways to celebrate books, music, Star Wars, and comics

April 30, 2019

This Saturday, May 4, fans of books, music, Star Wars, and comic books can indulge in a trio of celebrations.

May 4th (and 5th) is the Hawaii Book and Music Festival. This free celebration of books and music is fun for people of all ages, backgrounds and tastes. In addition to author talks, book swaps, keiki entertainment, storytimes, and musical performances, there are presentations and panel discussions about Hawaiian culture, Humanities/Breaking News, and Wellness.

May 4th is also Star Wars Day, “May the Fourth Be With You”. “May the 4th be with you.” What started as pun shared by fans has become a full-fledged Star Wars holiday: Star Wars Day, a special once-a-year celebration of the galaxy far, far away. Have a fan-tastic day by dressing up as your favorite Star Wars character, indulging in “Yoda Soda” with “Wookie Cookies,” and watching your favorite episode or reading your favorite Star Wars book.

And May 4th is Free Comic Book Day, the biggest celebration of comic books and a great time to discover new types of comics! It’s the perfect time to read new comics, get kids involved in reading, and have fun as a community. This year, there are 51 comics to choose from, including titles from Minecraft & Disney’s The Incredibles, Little Lulu, Bob’s Burgers, The Amazing Spider-Man, My Hero Academia, Star Wars Adventures, and more. Tag your photos #FCBD19 to help get Free Comic Book Day trending.

Here’s a list of participating public libraries:

  • Oahu – Aiea, Aina Haina, Hawaii Kai, Kailua, Kalihi-Palama, Kapolei, Manoa, McCully-Moiliili, Mililani, Nanakuli, Salt Lake-Moanalua, Wahiawa, Waikiki-Kapahulu, Waimanalo, and Waipahu. At select Oahu libraries, costumed characters from the Pacific Outpost of the 501st Imperial Legion, Rebel Legion Hawaii, and Costumers Guild of Hawaii will be appearing. Check your local library for appearance times.
  • Hawaii Island – Hilo, Kailua-Kona, and Thelma Parker. At the Hilo Public Library, 2:30 pm to 3:30 pm, kids can make their own comic book and playing card.
  • Kauai – Hanapepe and Princeville.
  • Lanai – Visit the Lanai Public & School Library’s booth at the Saturday Market (front of Cafe 565) from 8-11 a.m.
  • Maui – KahuluiKiheiLahaina, and Makawao. At the Kihei Public Library, 10 am to 12:30 pm, meet comic book artist and author of Draw-a-Saurus James Silvani.

I plan to pick up a free comic book and volunteer at the Book and Music Festival (first time!), so maybe I’ll see you this weekend. Which celebrations will you choose?

Celebrating Earth Month 2019

April 23, 2019

On April 22 we celebrated Earth Day 2019, a day of action that changes human behavior and provokes policy changes.

This year, the focus is on “Protect our Species.” Earth Day Network reminds us: “A vast number of animals and plants have gone extinct in recent centuries due to human activity, especially since the industrial revolution. Many others are in serious decline and threatened with extinction, which affects genetic variation and biodiversity, among other issues.”

We only have one earth. Especially here in Hawaii, we understand how precious and fragile the earth can be.

There is still time to get involved, help out, or give back to the earth. Here are a few events throughout the rest of Earth Month 2019 in Hawaii:

* April 23: UH Manoa Earth Day Festival, 10 am to 5 pm, UH Manoa Campus Center Courtyard and iLab,  Oahu. “He Aloha Ka Mauli Ola O Ka ʻĀina: Aloha is the lifeforce of the land” features over 40 campus and community organizations, live music, repurposed art, sustainable business, activities, speaker series, and more. Free and open to the public.

* April 23: Earth Day in the Park, 4 pm to 6 pm, Riseley Field on Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Oahu.

* April 25, Hanauma Talks Seminar, 6:30 pm to 7:30 pm, Hanauma Bay, Oahu. This free seminar is about “Caring for O‘ahuʻs manu-o-kū: it takes a hui!” with Rich Downs, Hawai‘i Audubon Society.

* April 26: UH Hilo Earth Day Fair, 8:30 am to 1:30 pm, UH Hilo Campus Center Plaza and Library Lanai, Hawaii Island. The Earth Day celebration will include educational videos, informational exhibits and science demonstrations, guest speakers, a food sustainability panel, environmental science skill-building workshops, dances, hula, storytellers, face painting, campus garden tours, an environmental career fair, unmanned aerial vehicle flight simulators and more.

* April 27: Going Green, 9 am to 12 pm, Nuuanu Congregational Church, Oahu. This is a free collection event of unlimited e-waste, including computers, monitors, printers, recyclables, gently-used items, canned goods, and more.

April 27: Aloha Aina, 9 am to 12 pm, Kalihi Waena Elementary School, Oahu. This is a free recycling drive hosted by the Kokua Hawaii Foundation, accepting all types of scrap metal, electronics and computers, used cooking oil, gently-used household items, and more.

* April 27, Pūpūkea Paumalū Community Work Day, 9 am to 11 am, Sunset Beach Elementary School, Oahu. Join North Shore Community Land Trust  to help maintain the trail. Meet at the hiking trail entrance at the Sunset Beach Elementary School lower parking lot. Wear closed toe shoes, bring a reusable water bottle, and wear clothes you don’t mind getting dirty. All tools, gloves, snacks and water refills will be provided. Contact to RSVP.

* April 27: Earth Day Manoa Stream Cleanup with the Surfrider Foundation, 9:30 am to 12:30 pm, 2645 Dole Street, Oahu.

* April 28: Kōlea Farm Volunteer Workday and Dinner Potluck, 1 pm to 6 pm, Kōlea Farm, Oahu. Come prepared with working pants, long sleeves, a hat for sunny days, garden gloves, bug spray, and your happy soul. Potluck Dinner is open after the work time; bring a side dish or pupus to share. RSVP online at

And here’s one more way you can help:

* Volunteer for the Marine Debris Solutions Project. B.E.A.C.H. sorts macro and micro plastic marine debris in order to find solutions to the problem of marine debris. Volunteers are needed from now until August, Monday to Friday, 9am – 12noon or 2pm -5pm and some Saturdays and Sundays. No experience is needed. Volunteers are welcome on any day in Kaneohe. To register, call 808-393- 2168 or email with the date/s you would like to help, at least 2 days before.  This hands-on activity is suitable for ages 15 years and older.  Service learning and internships are also available.

How do you celebrate Earth Day? What small changes can you make today to reduce, re-use, recycle, re-plant, and re-purpose?

Hope, help, and healing to prevent suicide

April 16, 2019

Anyone can be at risk for suicide. We all have sources of strength. And it’s strong to get help.

These messages of hope, help, and healing are what I took away from the Prevent Suicide Hawai‘i Statewide Conference last week, April 11-12, 2019.

Organized by the Prevent Suicide Hawai‘i Taskforce (PSHTF), the Conference was sponsored by organizations such as EMS and Injury Prevention System Branch of the Hawai‘i State Department of Health, the Department of Psychiatry under the John A. Burns School of Medicine, and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) Hawai‘i Chapter.

I work for a local mental health nonprofit, and I was fortunate to be a resource table volunteer. During the Conference, I spoke with passionate advocates, educators, and service providers. I learned about the resources that are available for people in crisis. And I was inspired by West Oahu and neighbor island youth who are committed to prevent suicide in their schools and communities.

The Conference opened with a keynote by Dr. Christine Moutier, Chief Medical Officer of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Dr. Moutier emphasized that the stigma of mental distress is going down and talk saves lives – for those at risk and for survivors of suicide loss. “Everyone struggles,” she stated. “It’s strong to get help.”

There were five breakout sessions and five different “tracks,” covering Hope (primary prevention), Help (intervention and treatment), Healing (postvention and survivor supports), Special Topics and Populations (Micronesian, Military, Filipino, and LGBTQ populations), and Culture (Hawaii and Pacific Islands).

For me, the most moving point came at the Fight For Each Other (F4EO) break-out session. Speakers for the F4EO Project share how suicide affects the lives of military members, their friends, family, and co-workers. Col. Robert Swanson shared his personal story of healing and recovery. “It always gets better – but only if you stick around,” he asserted.

The most impressive part of the Conference was the Youth Leadership Council. These motivated youth shared some of the results of their training, including identifying sources of strengths – such as family support, positive friends, and healthy activities. Youth facilitator Deborah Goebert, DrPH summed it up when she said, “Go out and inspire each other.”

The Conference closed with an address by Lieutenant Governor Dr. Josh Green, who shared his personal story as a survivor of suicide loss. “It took us years to realize we shouldn’t blame ourselves for missing the signs,” he revealed. Dr. Green concluded with words of encouragement: “We have an incredible capacity to help each other.”

Suicide Prevention Resources:

  • ANYONE in crisis can call the 24-hour National the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255).
  • Veterans, call 800-273-TALK (8255) and press “1” to reach the Veterans Crisis Line or text to 838255.
  • Teens in Hawaii can text ALOHA to 741741or call 832-3100 for 24-hour crisis support.

Climate change, home, and mental health

March 12, 2019

I’ve been thinking about home recently. The land I grew up on is still there, but the home is gone, replaced by a house that overwhelms the land. Though I didn’t live there anymore, it still makes me feel a sense of loss whenever I’m in the neighborhood.

And how much stronger would that sense of loss be if the land were gone?

The 2018 “Sea Level Rise and Climate Change” Final White Paper, prepared by the University of Hawai‘i Sea Grant College Program, is an alarming summary of the effects of climate change on Hawaii’s environment, communities, and overall well-being.

There are environmental impacts, like more frequent heat waves, worsening air and water quality, rising sea levels, changes in rainfall patterns, changing ecosystems, and more frequent weather effects.

There are corresponding health impacts, like increased respiratory illness, heatstroke, and cardiovascular and kidney disease. And climate change impacts us as neighborhoods and communities, like our ability to travel within and without the islands and our access to food and freshwater.

Beyond the environment and our physical survival, climate change affects our mental health.

How can we thrive with the threat of displacement, the threat of losing our homes and our connection to the ‘aina? How can we address mental health concerns in our disaster planning and community resilience efforts?

In 2018, 700 homes on Hawaii Island were destroyed during the Kilauea eruption, and over 2,000 people had registered to receive aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), according to Pacific Business News (7/9/18).

Also in 2018, more than 100 people lost their lives, and over 17,000 homes were destroyed by California wildfires, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, reported The Weather Channel (3/11/19).

As small Pacific island nations become inhabitable due to sea level rise, lack of fresh water, or other factors, an increasing number of climate change migrants may come to Hawaii because it is similar to the home they left behind. How can we help them thrive in Hawaii? What can we learn from their experiences with the loss of place and loss of their connection to the past?

I’m feeling a little nostalgic about my childhood home. What are your thoughts about maintaining or regaining mental well-being in the face of losing a home?

How connected do you feel to your home? Do you live in a flood or tsunami zone? Are you prepared for a sudden disaster or a slow rise in sea level?

Kindness starts with one

February 12, 2019

I’ve been immersing myself in happiness over the past few months, learning from the Greater Good Science Center, and figuring out how to make happiness practices part of everyday life.

We can become happier in many different ways, from encouraging empathy and nurturing friendships to fostering gratitude and cultivating a sense of awe. But one of the simplest ways to become happier and spread happiness is to be kind.

Being kind makes us happy, and being happy makes us kind.

Kindness is easy, and it starts with ONE. One person. One cup of coffee, one compliment, one “I love you,” one note-to-self.

On February 17, 2019, we’re celebrating Random Acts of Kindness Day, and it starts with YOU. You can be the one to write a positive note at school or work, thank someone who isn’t usually acknowledged, or volunteer to do a five-minute favor. No one else has to know about it. But you’ll know.

Kindness starts with one, but let’s aim for five. Studies have shown that doing five acts of kindness in one day can make you happier than doing single acts of kindness spread out over time.

Being kind can have a lasting impact, too. You can get a happiness boost by remembering a time when you were kind or helpful or generous… or by remembering a time when someone was kind to you.

I tried a happiness practice called “Three Good Things,” in which you write down three good things that happen to you each day. The goal is to focus on positive thoughts and feelings. I found that it really helped to put my day in perspective, and lessen any worry or stress I felt.

I’m starting to take it a step further and pay attention to whether good things happen to me (like receiving a compliment) or because of me (like giving a compliment).

What will you do on Random Acts of Kindness Day? How will you spread kindness?