SOLEDAD — May is National Mental Health Matters Month, and South County residents came together last weekend to bring a hidden topic to the front: Suicide.
No one is sure how to broach the topic but everyone has known someone affected by it. Whether it is secondhand through a friend or relative that has lost someone or it was someone they knew and loved.
After friends and family are left with feelings of “what if…” or “why…” no one may ever know.
“Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death overall in the United States and the second amongst 10 to 24 year olds,” said Samantha Barrera, a teacher at Soledad High School. “Each Year, 44,193 Americans die from suicide, that’s 121 people per day.
“These are just statistics, but we know that behind every statistic, there is a real human being; someone who has been lost, and loved beyond death.”
Recently, Barrera helped organize a walk to fight suicide. Called “Out of the Darkness Community Walk,” more than 60 people participated in the event held at the Cesar Chaves Park on Front Street in Soledad. Similar walks are being held in all 50 states.
Local students, parents and community members walked in the City of Soledad to raise awareness, to give information of signs to look for and most important who to contact to help a friend, a relative or even themselves to “walk out of the darkness,” to let them know that no situation is so dark that they need to turn to suicide.
“Unfortunately, our beloved friend Alexandra Peaches Read became part of that statistic when she ended her life three years ago at age 20,” Barrera said. “In past years, we have held a volleyball tournament to help raise awareness for suicide in our community. This year, we decided to hold a walk for suicide awareness and prevention.”
The American Foundation for Suicide Awareness (AFSA), the Suicide Prevention Services of the Central Coast, and the Department of Behavioral Health and Mental Illness all joined to share resources and information at the weekend event.
All proceeds went to the Alexandra Read Scholarship Fund Inc. to provide scholarships for students pursuing a degree. Donations are still being collected through a Go-Fund-Me account at gofundme.com/p/zthk.
There are many places to turn to for information or to talk or text for help or someone to talk to. The National Suicide Prevention line is 1-800-273-8255(talk), or to talk through texting, text the word “CONNECT” to 741741.
“Please take suicidal comments seriously,” Barrera said. “We encourage everyone to educate themselves on mental health, recognizing the signs, and finding resources to share with others.”