The Student Ambassadors held their annual Suicide Awareness seminar in Tipton Hall on Feb. 19, a cold and cloudy afternoon. Omar Hilario, a senior Film major, headed the event this year, taking over for alumna Chelsea Garcia. “This has been a subject that has been near and dear to me,” Hilario said. “I edited a video, ‘I’m Not Here’, which was a short film released from here by Alec Brown that tackled the subject of suicide. I just felt such a connection to it, along with Chelsea, that I felt like I had to do this.” The event included videos from survivors and family members of those who had committed suicide as well as personal testimonials and facts on suicide and suicide prevention given by the Student Ambassadors, broken up by music performed by Matt Shutske.
Hilario stood at the podium and explained his experience as a friend of someone who was suicidal while an information sheet from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention specified for New Mexico was projected behind him. Hilario’s testimonial illustrated the struggle of having a loved one who was suicidal and being relied on for comfort and help. That reliance and the pressure of responsibility for someone’s life had taken a toll on Hilario, but years later, after his friend had recovered, he told Hilario “if he were to have done that [committed suicide], it wouldn’t have been my fault.”
Many of the speakers at the event had experience as “allies” of those suffering from depression and suicidal behavior. The information provided, aside from contact info for the Suicide Prevention Lifeline and other support systems, focused on how individuals can help loved ones coping with suicidal thoughts. “My hopes were that… they learned ways to be there for someone who could be going through either depression or any kind of suicidal thoughts and how to better be an ally themselves as well as to think of themselves,” Hilario said. “That’s one thing I think is very important — to think of yourself as well as whoever it is you’re helping.”
The information presented by each of the Student Ambassadors was intended to bring to light facts about suicide that otherwise may have been unknown, such as potential causes or treatments. One of the presenters, senior Film major Devyn Williams, first attended this event a few years ago and appreciated all of the new information that was brought to her attention. “It really hit home the message of this event, that it could be happening to anybody and anyone could be going through this,” Williams said. “And it also was this really cool community building thing. Like I started talking to people outside of my normal friend circle that I don’t think I would have otherwise.”
Because of the blustery weather and threat of rain, the turnout for the event was less than it had been in past years, but a smattering of seats were still filled in Tipton Hall while the speakers give their talks. But even outside of the event itself, people showed support for victims of suicide by wearing blue, the color designated for suicide prevention. “So even if they didn’t come to the event, as long as they participated in showing the respect and everything of wearing a blue shirt, I consider that an accomplishment as well.”