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"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our Light, not our Darkness, that most frightens us." ~ Marianne Williamson
Tuesday, July 16, 2013
"National Call to Action Against Suicide"
Jason Mraz "I Won't Give Up"
Should you or someone you know need help, contact the National Crisis Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK)
As I write these words, I am numb knowing that 17-year old Carlos
Vigil took his own life in my home state of New Mexico. He was part of a well known youth center I enjoyed stopping by on visits back home. I always felt inspired by what the innovative things the youth were doing and the sincere caring nature of the staff always sent me back to Washington, DC with a new sense of hope. I write this as a message to those suffering in silence and to honor the memory of a young life gone to soon. No matter what troubles lie in your path, please know that suicide is not the answer. It does not matter if you knew Carlos Vigil personally, because every time a child dies by suicide, it is a tragic loss to all of humanity.
From what I have read Carlos was a compassionate leader. He
was a member of a well-known youth center in his community and just returned
from North Carolina where he lobbied on behalf of anti-bullying legislation. So
what went wrong? Parents and friends have shared how Carlos was bullied by his
peers because he was gay, had acne, and a lazy eye. For me, this story spans far greater than just the issue of bullying. The death of Carlos Vigil
sheds light on the illnesses that plague our society and the choices made to ignore
them. As a nation, we have failed Carlos and the thousands of youth like him who felt this world would be a better place without them. We have failed to secure communities free of
intolerance and hate. We have failed in providing adequate
mental health services
and resources. We have failed to educate youth on what they should do if they
or someone they know is at risk of harming themselves. We have failed to
provide parents and schools with the basic tools and education on how to recognizing
warning signs for suicide. If you disagree, I ask one simple question. What If
someone told you they were thinking of suicide? What would you do or say? What
if they did not say anything at all, but you knew something was not right?
Would you know what warning signs to look for?
In his final words, Carlos wrote, “I am doing an injustice
to the world and it’s time for me to leave.” What has this world come to when a
child goes through life suffering in silence, only to feel that they have inflicted
an injustice upon society just by being alive? The big elephant in the room that must not be overlooked and ignored
is the urgent need for adequate mental health services. Without these safeguards,
we cannot and will not be able to deter acts such as bullying and suicide.
Focus and emphasis must be made to implement prevention and early intervention
services for children and youth, starting in elementary. To do anything else only
masks the epidemic of suicide that continues to end so many young lives.
As you sit there and read this, I challenge you to become
active and do something. Let us not spend one more second pondering about how or
why tragedies like this happen. What we must do right now is take what we
are feeling and channel that energy to become positive agents of change. To
merely read this and move on with your day, only repeats the cycle of thought
that, “someone else should do something about this?” It is irresponsible to
assume that the responsibility belongs to anyone other than us. So, today let
that someone be you! We cannot allow the dreams, hopes, and aspirations of one
more child to be lost to suicide. To do nothing is an injustice to the memory
of Carlos and those who love him.
Suicide ranks as the 11th leading cause of death
nationwide and is the fastest growing cause of death for ages 10-14 years old, with
numbers on the rise. Suicide is a reflection of who we are as a society.
Education and services are greatly needed, but nothing can be changed until we
as a society begin to change. We must demand that elected officials support
mental health initiatives and we must hold them accountable when they do not. We
must demand that all schools provide access to mental health services and
resources. Each of us
holds a responsibility to foster a less cruel and violent
world. Regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, or economic status everyone
deserve a life free of hate and violence. When we talk about bullying, it is
hard to comprehend the amount of violence and hatred that seems to dwell in so
many young minds and hearts. Causing harm whether verbally or physically to
someone else through bullying should concern us all, because young bullies will
eventually grow up to be adult bullies. If we do not address the violence and
get those who perpetrate it the help they need, we will be doomed to face them
and their hate on the street.
You do not have to be a mental health expert to help someone
in need, just as you do not have to be a
doctor in order to get your friend
help for a broken arm. The message I share is to do something that will help to
make our world a better place. On Twitter, Carlos Vigil posted a copy of his impressive
resume and listed his role as Freshman Class President in 2010; Youth Secretary
for Homeland Security, New Mexico High School Youth in Government; and Youth
Creative Crew Vice-President for the youth center he was a member of. His
skills of public speaking, planning, conducting meetings and Photoshop ranked
right at the top. Even more impressive was this young man’s personal objective,
in which he wrote that he wanted to, “Participate in something bigger than
myself... teach others to work together and be kind…chase my dreams and goals
in order to become a productive citizen in my community.” As of July 13, 2013,
we will never know what Carlos Vigil would have become. His death is an
injustice to the world and a burden all of our hearts must carry. Change can only come when we as a society
change. The cure is
in our hands and it starts with hope and love.
Should you or
someone you know need help, call the National Crisis Hotline at 1-800-273-8255