On May 4, over 300 students attended Chabot College’s third annual Suicide Prevention Campus Walk and Fundraiser as part of Chabot Colleges Mental Health Week. The campus walk was on the Chabot College football/track field from noon to 3 p.m.
The event was hosted by Counseling Advocacy Resources Education Support, better known as CARES, and American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). Campus clubs and programs came and showed support, like Restorative Integrated Self Education (RISE) and Revolutionaries Advocating for Greener Ecosystems (RAGE).
Before the event started, there was Land Acknowledgement on the field. Wellness Ambassadors respectfully acknowledge the original peoples of the land on which this campus is built. The land belonged to a Native American tribe called the Muwekma Ohlone tribe thousands of years before Chabot.
After the Land Acknowledgement interim dean of counseling Sadie Ashraf shared some words about the walk and what it meant to her by stating, “To come together as a community says a lot. We don’t know what’s behind someone’s smile or pain, and we don’t know what they are going through. We recognize that mental health needs to be discussed,” she continues talking about how suicide affected her” … I lost a parent to suicide, and I still tear up when I speak on it. We need to support mental wellness. I appreciate everyone coming together as a community, and I thank you.”
The walk itself lasted for only one hour from noon to 1 p.m. During the walk there were booths where participants could color, write poems, or play instruments provided, like congas, bongos, claves, tambourines, and other percussion instruments, to express their feelings.
The Hope memory board, an activity where attendees wrote poetry, words of inspiration, colored, drew pictures, or notes pinned onto a panel to express their passions toward the mental health of suicide.
“You are loved and cared for, you are enough, and I love you. Be yourself, treat others how you want to be treated, and just know that you’re worth it.” was stated in one note.
Another note had a touching poem titled For The Lost Little Boy.
“Here’s a poem for the lost little boy who lost his way home. Lost his way back to shelter, peace, and home. The lost little boy who cries at night lost with no guide to him back home. He’s afraid to reach out and ask for help because he fears those who criticize him for asking for help. I hope he finds his way home where he is loved and remembered.”
Chabot Instructor, counselor, and one of the organizers for the event, Juztino Pannella, explained the significance of instruments present at the event, and “We provided instruments and art supplies because some people can’t deal with all the thoughts and feelings about their mental awareness or don’t know how to, so they make a rhythm out of it. Others draw and write poetry with the Hope and Memory Board upon the board or write a note for their loved ones who were lost to suicide.”
Beads for attendees to wear at the event were provided with a total of 10 different colors, with each color representing a personal connection for individuals. For example, white stands for the loss of a child, red represents the loss of a spouse or partner, gold is the loss of a parent, and rainbow is for honoring the LGBTQ+ community. The colors helped the organizers and attendees identify and connect with those who understand their experiences.
One of the participants was a student named Mrs. Mack, who wore orange beads “I’m wearing this, and I’m here because I lost my niece to suicide she was 25 years old. Orange represents the loss of a sibling. I am also here to show support to struggling with it.”
Many attendees came to show their supporting Suicide Prevention. One of the attendees was Chabot College Head Men’s Basketball Coach Kennan McMiller. This is his first time coming to the walk. He said, “It’s an important cause of the society that we’re in right now. Some days it doesn’t feel like it’s getting any better. People are feeling discouraged,” Coach McMiller continues talking about how suicide and basketball player he once knew. “ … I had a player that was going to come and play for Chabot, but he came home and saw his sister hung herself. It messed him up mentally he stopped playing.”
The walk provided care, hope, and love for anyone who came. It was a safe place to support and express your feelings about mental health and suicide awareness.
Victor Camarena is part of the RISE program that helps recently incarcerated people get back on their feet with schooling and jobs. This is Camarena’s second year attending the walk, saying, “I’m here because I lost my daughter due to suicide. She was 15, and she meant a lot to me. Coming here greatly helps me because suicide needs to be talked about, and I support mental awareness.”
Pannello spoke on how suicide affected him, “I was affected by suicide when I first came to the college. It was an acquaintance — someone who was in the community and died by suicide. I also had a student here at Chabot who died by suicide. Those were impactful to me.”
The funding goal is to raise $5,000 by June 30th. Christina Cappello, the area director of AFSP in the San Francisco chapter mentioned where the funding goes, “One: Research studies that we fund help develop new and better treatments for mental health and suicide. Two: it goes into the community and school-based prevention education programs, and three: we also fund support programs for survivors of suicide loss and going through mental health.”
They have raised a total of $1,350, so far. The Wellness Ambassador team donated $325. Chabot College Softball donated $100, and CARES donated $50. Donations were also received from other attendees in person at the event or online.
This is a signature fundraising event started by AFSP in 2011, and they added, “The Out of the Darkness Campus Walks designed to engage youth and young adults in the fight to prevent suicide.”
The Chabot Campus Suicide Prevention walk started when COVID still had a chokehold on the world. It began in 2021 thanks to The Wellness Ambassadors and CARES. The first walk was a Zoom virtual walk due to COVID. Where people could communicate over zoom while on a walk of their liking Last year was the first in-person walk, with over 100 who came to show support. This year it doubled.
Student and Wellness Ambassador for CARES, Beatriz Ramirez, said, “Our goal is to raise awareness about suicide, and we want students and the community to come out and support it. We hope to talk about the stigma of suicide.”
According to the AFSP website, suicide is the 12th leading cause of death in the U.S. as of 2023. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) claims, as of 2023, just five months into this year, there have been 47,467 suicides in the U.S.
Bringing awareness to mental health and suicide is essential. Suicide can be a stigmatized, uncomfortable conversation that many don’t want to discuss or are afraid of. On the walk, it did not feel like that. People weren’t afraid to express or to talk about how suicide or let alone how mental health affected them and what can be done to decrease the number of suicides or how to deal with mental health.Life is complicated, and people can have much to deal with. If you know someone dealing with suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which is open 24/7 at 800-273-TALK (8255). Also, on campus, CARES counselors are there for you. For more information on suicide prevention, go to https://afsp.org.
For donations, go to: https://supporting.afsp.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=donorDrive.event&eventID=9365.
For Chabot Wellness go to: https://www.chabotcollege.edu/student-services/mental-health/index.php