Saving lives without fear


Photo by Natalie Gallegos

Central students and faculty wrote names of loved ones affected by suicide on these paper hearts handed out by Peer Connectors during Suicide Prevention Week. The hearts were posted in the quad to show students they are not alone.

Natalie Gallegos, Staff Writer

“People seem plenty eager to talk about mental illness and about suicide just as long as it’s behind closed doors and hushed voices,” explains 30 year old mental health advocate and suicide survivor Mark Henick in a TED Talk entitled Why We Choose Suicide. In 2002, at age 15, he stood on the Sydney bridge in Canada, contemplating suicide when a total stranger talked him out of the inevitable. Henick has since then traveled across the world sharing his story and encouraging others to openly discuss depression and suicide. Along with other activists and experts, he says that treating suicide as if it’s some shameful secret means at-risk individuals are unlikely to ask for help and their community is unlikely to offer it. Though most of us would say we want to prevent suicide, we are fearful about openly asking someone if it’s crossed their minds and even more scared of acknowledging our own suicidal thoughts.

If the subject does come out into the open, people often minimize, or ignore it. We find it embarrassing apparently. How is it that something that results in such drastic outcomes is ruled out as a source of discussion because it simply isn’t polite. Most people feel that asking someone if they are contemplating suicide is insulting, that we are suggesting that they are weak or mentally ill. In fact, statistics suggest, that if someone were to come up to you to tell you that they were debating ending their life, you would most likely respond with the feeling of fear and try to downplay or avoid the subject. We need to move past our feelings of fear regarding suicide until it isn’t something that anyone is afraid to talk about. It needs to be spoken about more often in a public manner and shouldn’t be left to those who encounter it privately. Most people are familiar with September being Suicide Prevention Month and have seen those suicide prevention posters all around school. All we saw were posters, yet there was no talk of suicide. No discourse, no information, no debate, no offers of counseling. advice or comfort. Anyone seriously contemplating suicide would see this as a reminder of how much their predilection disturbs others without the comfort of knowing that someone is actually willing and prepared to offer help. Those posters are doing more harm than good. We need more than posters to address this problem in our school.

Suicide is the 11th leading cause of death in the United States and the second leading cause of death among ages 15-24-year old’s. Perhaps you might wonder what causes someone to attempt or commit suicide. There are a variety of reasons for someone to view suicide as an answer. Mental illness can be the cause, but often, stressful life problems can propel people into a situation where they feel there is no other escape. People suffering from depression or suicidal thoughts usually try to hide their pain out of shame or a perception that their feelings will be a burden on those around them. However, they may show signs, like withdrawal from social activities, or distancing themselves from people, even when they show up for activities. They usually don’t talk, laugh or fully participate even if they feel pressured to show up. We need to look for people who are checked out. They may be great students, they may have stable families, they may be successful – they may also be depressed. Never assume that someone doesn’t qualify for a suicide risk. Instead, look for the symptoms.

In any case, it’s important to remember, people who have thoughts of suicide keep their problems to themselves and feel horrible, hopeless, and helpless. It is not a matter of whether or not we think they should feel this way, it is a matter of sensing that they do and acknowledging it. It’s a matter of asking if they are thinking about suicide. It’s a matter of feeling their pain, not knowing what to do, telling them that and helping them find someone who does. If someone admits that they are suicidal, this is the time to contact a school counselor who can assess the student’s risk in an informed manner. If you experience direct threats or momentary expressions of  suicidal wishes after hours, you should call 911. You are not betraying a suicidal person by calling for help. You are working to save them. In extreme situations, reporting suicidal people  may result in them being restricted to a hospitalized environment for a few days, but this serves as an important evaluation period and may lead to the changes that they need to live a more stable life.

Contacting a trained professional is proven to help with stress, overcoming fears, improving relationships and even saving  lives. Although there is professional help out there, people in a very deep depression feel like nobody can help them or understand how they feel. It takes time to open up to a complete stranger, but it’s been proven very beneficial to those who want the help.  Talking to someone who is in need of help will provide support and decrease the chances of the person hurting themselves.

If you are concerned for someone, approach them and let them know you would like to speak to them about this issue and be ready to talk about it openly. Remember to speak genuinely and directly. Keep in mind that you are not a professional and that they may need professional help. Be non-judgmental and show interest in what the person is talking about, be willing to listen, be open and avoid offering solutions. Don’t be shocked by what they say because this person may feel as you may not be able to help. Give them hope and reassure them they are not alone. Most of all, encourage them to get help, and even if they resist, if anyone is thinking seriously about ending their lives, contact one of our school psychologists, Monica Monroy or Laura Sanchez to intervene. In any after-school hours situation where you think a person may be at risk immediately, don’t wait, call 911. Remember, whether someone is seriously or not so seriously considering suicide, they need more emotional attention and support. Don’t worry about figuring out the difference by yourself.

Most of us have probably heard the song “1-800-273-8255” by the singer Logic. The song is the story of someone calling the NSPH (National Suicide Prevention Hotline) and thinking about ending their life, but after a conversation with the person on the other line, the caller decides that life is worth living.  This song was made to show that suicide is not an answer to a person’s problem and also inspired millions of people to call the NSPH and get the help they needed. “Pain don’t hurt me the same, I know, the lane I travel feels alone, but I’m moving ‘til my legs give out and I see my tears in the snow. But I don’t wanna cry anymore. I wanna feel alive. I don’t wanna die anymore. Oh I don’t wanna, I don’t wanna, I don’t even wanna die anymore.”  It’s time for us all to be willing and ready to make this call if we get to that point or discover others who have, without judgement and without shame.


National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255


  • If you are asked to keep a suicide planning a secret, don’t, you should never agree to keep that secret.
  • If you want to get someone immediate help, don’t leave the person alone.
  • Try to find out if they are under the influence or may have done something or anything that could seriously hurt them.
  • Call an emergency number or get the nearest help.