Let’s talk about suicide

Dialogues on self-harm and what we can do about it


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Skyline College Health & Wellness Services offers personal counseling. Call call (650) 738-4270 for more information.

Each year 44 million American adults will experience a serious mental health condition, and less than half will seek treatment due to stigma and discrimination. According to Pinerest.org, “Mental Illness is a physical illness of the brain that causes disturbances in thinking, behavior, energy or emotion that make it difficult to cope with ordinary demands of life.” Research shows that brain structure, genetics, brain chemistry, trauma, and heart disease can cause mental illnesses.

Two of the most common mental health conditions are anxiety disorders and mood disorders. A blog from Pinerest.org reports that, “18% of adults struggle with anxiety, PTSD, phobias, OCD, and panic attacks. 10% of adults each year are characterized by difficulties in regulating one’s mood.”

The Health and Wellness Services noticed an increase of sessions this fall — With the shelter in place order, fear and anxiety has been heightened. People are put under more stress, especially with the global issues taking place. For some students, however, they see our campus as their safe haven. Services with a counselor are still available online.

“We are social creatures — Having a support system helps us get through life,” Perry Chen said.

Chen is a full-time personal counselor at Skyline College. He said that in order for peace of mind, make sure to eat, and sleep regularly. His mission as counselor is to make sure students succeed, and help manage emotions while guiding healing. Chen also advises one to make sure to maintain a healthy routine for themselves. Enrolled students are offered free sessions with a personal counselor with no wait time, as well as therapies that help one to process thoughts, and tools on how to do so.

In honor of National Suicide prevention month, Skyline held their own event in order to bring light and awareness to the topic. Skyline counselors held a screening for the movie “Suicide: The Ripple Effect” by Kevin Hines and Greg Dicharry, and hosted a panel discussion called “Hope and Healing: A Conversation on Suicide” via Zoom on Tuesday, Sept. 22 and Thursday, Sept. 24 respectively.

The movie is about Hines himself, who miraculously survived after jumping from the Golden Gate bridge at age 19. As the movie began, all grew quiet, with chills starting to creep the moment Hines began speaking.

“God please save me, I don’t want to die, I made a mistake,” he said.

Throughout the film, Hines goes on a journey sharing his survival story, and bringing awareness, help, and support to people everywhere. Different families and people spoke about their loss of a loved one due to suicide afterwards.

35 minutes into the film, Hines brought up the question, “What is sick in our culture?”, and discussed how we may stop people from choosing to end their lives as a society. A simple “How are you?”, and a conversation with a stranger or loved one can save a life.

“Prevention must be a part of our community,” Hines said.

A coast guard in the film said he has picked up a total of 56 bodies throughout his career. Among those 56 bodies, there has only been only one survivor — and that was Hines.

Most people are unaware of the effects mental illness has on a person. It is our duty as a community to bring awareness, and help each other.

The Golden Gate has a top suicide rate, and all other monuments around the world have a suicide barricade. Many people opposed adding a suicide barricade due to the worry the Bridges aesthetics would be ruined. The Bridge Rail Foundation was able to raise $76 million in order to put nets on the Golden Gate. Along the bridge, there are call boxes for those having suicidal thoughts. The bridge is also patrolled with staff. The suicide barricade will be finished in the year 2021.

One of the statistics presented in the film is that about 1,600 people have jumped off the bridge, and most bodies have not been found. The “fall” lasts four seconds, and people land into the water at the speed of 75 mph, equivalent to a truck driving into a cement wall. Most people can’t survive the damage to the body or the hypothermia.

Five panelists spoke up about their experiences at the “Hope and Healing” panel discussion.

“If you are going through a rough patch, I won’t tell you to have a good day,” one of the panelists said. “I’ll just ask you to have ‘a today’. It’s okay to not be okay, but just hold on for another day.”

During the discussion those in the audience asked the panelist a question: “How can we help someone who doesn’t want support?”

The panelists gave suggestions on what to do.

“Be comfortable with not having all the answers.”
“Help means showing up, and being there.”
“Call the hotline and ask how can you help someone, or call a hotline together.”

The panelists were also asked what are the words to say or what do for those having suicidal thoughts.

“Refrain from acting shocked — Be focused on listening, be curious, and be supportive.”
Hold hope for the person until they can for themselves.
Be there with them in the space, and bring intentional presence.

Karina Chapa, one of the panelists and staff members of StarVista, defines self-care as being very intentional with asking your body what it needs, and taking the time to give it that.

“Self-care is not self-indulgence,” Chapa said. “Do what will replenish you for tomorrow’s day. Numbing and distracting are not forms of self-care. … Knowing yourself, knowing when you are well, knowing what you look like when you are unwell.”

Chapa also gave some advice what one should do if someone or a loved one is going through a difficult situation that’s detrimental to mental health:

Express concern or care if you, a friend, or a loved one is going through depression. When helping a friend, make sure to accept and respect them. Do not express judgement, and consider calling a hotline together.
If you are having suicidal thoughts, find reasons to stay here.
Remind yourself that thoughts are temporary, seek help, and reach out. Chat services are available if you are uncomfortable with speaking over the phone.
See the person suffering from mental illness as an individual rather than as their illness.
Find your own ways of self-care.

Chapa also recommends the Wellness Action Plan (WRAP) program, which holds workshops in San Mateo. Chapa said that since the pandemic began, there has been about a 25% increase in the rate of calls to StarVista’s hotline, and an increase in call lengths.

If you are in a dark place due to the death of a loved one by suicide, loss of your job, end of a relationship, or any other life-altering change, reach out and seek counseling. Speaking to someone about your mental health provides clarity and will help reassure you.

Skyline College offers personal counseling in the health and wellness department, and they are here to help. You could either send an email or call (650) 738-4270 if you want to speak to a personal counselor. All services available online.

Reach out to StarVista’s 24/7 Crisis Hotline by calling (650) 579-0350. They can be reached through a crisis hotline, and a teen crisis chat. The hotline is free, and you do not have to be in a crisis to call. They will seek to provide you the help or resource that you need.

If you or a loved one need help, call the National Hopeline network at 1-800-SUICIDE or the National Suicide prevention network at 1-800-273-TALK.

Always remember that you are not alone and that there are people who care.