When Madisyn Uekawa was faced with a senior honors thesis project at the Office of Public Health Studies at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa in 2017, she decided to tackle the issue of suicide awareness with the intent of saving lives.
Her young adult fiction book, What I Chose, is especially timely, as the nation commemorates Suicide Prevention Week September 9–15. Uekawa is donating her book proceeds to the Hawaiʻi chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
The compelling novella tells the story of a UH freshman named Kiara, who bravely battles thoughts of self-harm after her twin sister dies by suicide. A central theme of the story is hope, and Kiara learns to reach out for help, even when it is hard to accept.
The young adult page-turner is also a public health announcement.
“People who are plagued by thoughts of suicide may feel like they don’t have a choice,” says Uekawa, a graduate of Waiākea High School on Hawaiʻi Island. “But they do, and my goal was to tell the story of how Kiara learns about her choices, using safe messaging.”
Safe messaging is a way of writing about suicide that encourages people to have hope and seek help, and that shares the warning signs of the leading cause of death among university students in the U.S.
To prepare for her project, Uekawa studied the genre of young adult fiction, especially how to use literary techniques to make her characters and storyline compelling to readers in their teens and 20s. She also researched behavioral health and statistics on suicide.
She feels great satisfaction about her decision to self-publish What I Chose after graduating from UH Mānoa in 2017. She relayed how a North Carolina man emailed her to learn how he could get copies of the book to share with young adults at risk of suicide.
Uekawa is now a second-year law student at Seattle University in Washington state. She hopes to engage in health-related work during her legal career.
The UH Counseling and Student Development Center offers a variety of counseling services, including 24/7 emergency access to counseling for students residing on the UH Mānoa campus via its Counselor-in-Residence Program.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
—By Theresa Kreif