Mental Health America of Hawai'i and Hawai'i Women in Filmmaking Partner to Address Teen Suicide

Dec 11, 2018

Mental Health America of Hawai'i and Hawai'i Women in Filmmaking are partnering to focus on teen suicides. They conducted a Brown Bag lunch and training seminar.
Credit Wayne Yoshioka

Hawai’i Teens are in crisis. That, according to mental health advocates locally and nationally.



Trisha Kajimura, executive director of Mental Health America of Hawai'i
Credit Wayne Yoshioka

Suicide is the leading cause of death for 15-to-24 year olds in Hawai’i.  And, the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System Results from the Centers of Disease Control underscore the increasing numbers of Hawai’i middle school-age students, 11-to-14.  Trisha Kajimura is the executive director for Mental Health America of Hawai’i.


“Students who ever seriously thought about killing themselves: middle school 23 percent, high school, 16 percent.  Students who ever made a plan:  16 percent and 13.8 percent. Students who ever attempted suicide:  middle school 12 percent, high school, 10 percent.  This is alarmingly high.  And, these are students self-reporting anonymously  through a survey.”


Kajimura says bullying is playing a role in teen suicide and education and training are essential to battling the stigma of mental health treatment.  Part of that effort is a partnership with Hawai’i Women in Filmmaking.  They teach teens the skills and provide them the tools to enable them to create films with messages that are important to teens.  This audio excerpt is from a conversation between Mia and her mother.


"Mia" a short film made by Hawai'i Women in Filmmaking
Credit Wayne Yoshioka

(Mia) “You bought me this jacket, ice cream and we’re gonna get our nails done after.”  (Mom)  “Just wanted to spend the day with my little girl.”  (Mia) “There must be a reason why you’re doing it today.”  (Mom) “Actually there is.  The truth is I don’t know how to be a mom.  I don’t know how to be a wife.  I just.  We’re thinking about getting a divorce so we’re moving next week to California.”  (Mia) “You thought ice cream was gonna fix this?” (Mom) “I’m Sorry, Mia.”

Vera Zambonelli, founder and executive director for Hawai'i Women in Filmmaking
Credit Wayne Yoshioka

The films provide a teen perspective.  Vera Zambonelli is the founder and executive director of Hawai’i Women in Filmmaking.


“Making media that matters is not just filmmaking for filmmaking sake.  It’s really building relationship and having informed conversations about what matters most to them and one thing that we always try to facilitate is, tell your story.  Don’t someone else’s story.  So, the films that you see – there may be some fiction here and there – but, their mostly a reflection of what they’re going through.”


Mental Health of America of Hawai’i’s Kajimura says access to mental health services must be available to everyone.


“Mental health affects everyone. At every age group.  You know, right now, we have a focus in our state on the seriously and persistently mentally ill, chronically homeless population.  Well, if we are trying to solve the homeless problem only by housing the people who are currently homeless, we aren’t gonna stop the pipeline of what’s driving people toward homelessness.”


For HPR News, I’m Wayne Yoshioka.