Suicide Prevention Week event showcases stories of perseverance

Students unite to discuss mental health


Michael Santone / The Advocate

Middle College High School senior Noemi Gomez puts candles in the shape of a heart during Suicide Prevention Week at Contra Costa College.

By Kyle Grant, Staff Writer

The stigma surrounding mental health can lead many individuals who suffer from suicidal thoughts and tendencies to remain in the shadows and not reach out for help.
Last week was Suicide Prevention Week, and Wednesday the Associated Students Union hosted an event in the Campus Center Plaza to discuss depression, mental illness and also reach out to anyone seeking help.
Contra Costa College student Minerva Arebalo, fellow students and college staff held a round-table discussion that highlighted the growing number of people who deal with various psychological conditions, and ways to identify signs that someone may be suffering from a mental disorder.
Participants shared their unique experiences with mental health and how it has affected their lives.
Middle College High School senior Noemi shared her battle with an eating disorder, which led her to develop a fear of choking on the food she ate.
She detailed a week she spent in the hospital, during which time she lost 10 pounds and remained bedridden so long it affected her mental state.
“I just wanted to be me again,” she said.
Noemi ended up entering an Eating Disorders Intensive Outpatient program (EDIOP) for her eating disorder. She spent most of her summer cooped up inside her house, but found solace in the help she received from a therapist and her friends.
She made it clear that they were a large part of her recovery.
Attendees were also drawn to the story of DaLonnie Crater, another CCC student who was brave enough to openly discuss his own troubles.
Crater told the story of how he played football, had plenty of friends and to those who knew him, he seemed like a happy and popular high school teenager.
To the audience’s surprise, he spoke about being bullied and growing up not liking the color of his own skin.
Crater bravely described a time in his youth when he would go to extremes and pour bleach into his bath water, hoping it would lighten the color of his skin.
Fortunately, members of his family and closest friends reached out to him and acted as his support group by helping him face and accept his circumstances.
They also helped him override the stigma that accompanies coping with a mental illness.
Administrative secretary Elizabeth Bremmer spoke at the event and noted that many students are unaware of the resources available to them.
The Student Wellness Program, which is a partnership between the Contra Costa Community College District and John F. Kennedy University community counseling centers, is a free service that pairs students with intern psychologists from JFK University for up to three sessions a week.
Students can receive free individual counseling or take part in group therapy sessions on campus. All sessions are completely confidential.
As the event drew to a close, attendees were asked to stand and come to the front. Each audience member was given a small candle to place in front of a collage of names and faces. The candles were then arranged in the form of a heart.
All the images in the collage were of people who succumbed to suicide at a young age.
Event coordinators and some participants noted that while attendance at this year’s event was lower than last year’s, the message is no less important.
“We just want people to know that no one’s alone. There’s always help available,” Arebalo.
Anyone seeking help, referrals or any information on the Student Wellness Program can email [email protected], or call 510-215-3960 for more information.