September was National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, which carried a goal of informing and familiarizing the public about statistics, preventative care and how to conduct effective discussions regarding mental health.
Ironically, September is merely the cusp at which most people experience depressive tendencies that can lead to an increase in suicidal thoughts. Those affected by SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder are triggered by the change in seasons and oftentimes experience bouts of depression throughout the winter months. While National Suicide Awareness Month does bring specific attention to those affected by mental health issues, constant maintenance and attention towards one’s mental health should be a more widely promoted aspect of general health and wellness.
Suicide awareness has become an inherent component in my life, for my best friend, Kyle Gamboa, committed suicide by jumping off of the Golden Gate Bridge at the beginning of our senior year of high school. His fatal choice completely altered my view of mortality, depression and the opportunities that lie ahead if one has the opportunity and resources to seek help.
Mental health and suicide awareness have recently become more central points of discussion, and fortunately so- the stigma against honesty regarding mental health further increases anxiety and insecurity in reaching out for help.
The relevance within popular culture has garnered mass attention, with the release of Netflix’s “13 Reasons Why” and the rapper Logic’s song “1-800-273-8255” being some of the more prominent examples.
At the 2017 MTV Video Music Awards, the rapper performed his hit song alongside Alessia Cara and Khalid, who are also featured on the track. The title of the track refers to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, and the artist’s vocality regarding mental health sheds light on a topic previously considered taboo in commonplace society.
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the nation; in California it’s the second and third leading cause for those aged 25-34 and as young as 10-24, respectively.
Over one in 12 deaths in California are self-inflicted, making suicide related deaths surpass homicide rates by more than half, with males being three times more likely.
Warning signs include increased irritability, withdrawal from communication or social events, and an escalation in drug or alcohol use.
American River College offers a multitude of mental health resources which can be found in the Health Center, located in the Administration and Counseling building. These aids range from countless pamphlets detailing depression, suicide and other mental health issues, as well as an anonymous crisis line which can be reached via text message. ARC’s Health Center is well equipped with an arsenal of means dedicated to the maintenance of its student body’s mental health needs, and is warm and welcoming to any student wanting to utilize their resources.
My friend Kyle’s energy was infectious and constant, there was never a dull moment spent with him- he remains to be one of the most caring and loving people I had the pleasure of knowing. Despite his perpetual stream of light hearted jokes, Kyle also wielded a self-deprecating humor that veiled a deep, manic depression invisible to his family and peers.
I questioned myself for years in the aftermath of his death, and blamed myself for not seeing the obvious. Despite my shock surrounding Kyle’s passing, I never resented him – the void and desolation I felt was incomparable to how he regarded himself each day.
If I suspected a hint of self harming tendencies within Kyle, I would have done everything within my power to assure him that he was, and will remain to be, meaningful enough to live. To attain self love, let alone self worth can be a struggle for all, yet no matter how one feels in their darkest times, death is never the solution.
If you suspect a family member, friend or fellow student may be considering suicide I implore you to reach out, either to the person directly or to a trusted companion. The ripple effect which self-inflicted death has on the surrounding community is insurmountable and unimaginably detrimental to all, and is preventable.
The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week 1-800-273-8255.
For more information about resources on campus, theARC Health Department can be reached at 916-484-8383 Monday through Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and Fridays from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. (nurses available by appointment only on Fridays).