The University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center is honoring Suicide Prevention Awareness Month by presenting a full week of events for the UNM community. The week was kickstarted with the annual Walk for Suicide Awareness at Johnson Field on Saturday, Sept. 10.
Different departments and organizations were present at the walk offering resources for people dealing with mental health issues. Among the participants were Student Health and Counseling, the LGTBQ+ Resource Center, the Veteran & Military Resource Center, UNM Hospital, Agora Crisis Center and the Transgender Resource Center of New Mexico.
Participants were offered different colored beads to represent the reasons why they were attending the event. White beads represented the loss of a child, red for the loss of a partner, gold for the loss of a parent, orange for the loss of a sibling, purple for the loss of relative or friend, silver for first responders and military, rainbow for LGBTQ+ and green for personal struggle.
“Everyone here has been affected … if it's a coworker, a friend, a parent, and we just want to bring that awareness that you're not alone in your lived experience, and if you are personally struggling with suicidal thoughts, we are here to help you … We have the resources to help you,” Vanessa Roybal, health education consultant and event coordinator, said.
Donations from the walk and throughout the week will benefit the Transgender Resource Center of New Mexico. Walk participants who donated $5 or more received a booklet of postcards filled with art made by UNM students.
TGRCNM is a nonprofit organization that serves transgender, nonbinary and gender-nonconforming people and communities through education, advocacy and direct services.
“Data has shown that trans and queer people have higher incidences of depression, anxiety and, unfortunately, that leads to a lot of suicidality,” Michael Trimm, TGRCNM executive director, said.
TGRCNM serves to educate through cultural fluency training and advocacy, personal advocacy for individuals and working with businesses and legislature to ensure that New Mexico continues to be a welcoming and affirming place for transgender people, according to Trimm.
“And that includes everything from food access to assistance with name changes, emergency financial assistance, clothing, gender-affirming items, you name it. We provide it,” Trimm said.
Heather Harrison attended the walk to honor her late grandfather who committed suicide.
“It changed (my life) profoundly just because I tried to help him, and I didn't realize he was in so much pain. Sometimes you don't realize it, but I volunteer with Agora and I thought I could recognize (his pain) and it didn't (help),” Harrison said.
Harrison has been volunteering with Agora for a couple of years as a suicide hotline counselor and will continue to do so in order to help more people dealing with the same issues as her grandfather.
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“I want them to know that they're not alone, that there are people out there who care and are willing to listen, and that people don't need to feel afraid to reach out to people,” Harrison said.
This is only the second year UNMH has hosted the awareness walk. The Health Sciences Center’s awareness week began with Dr. Elizabeth Lawrence from UNMH when she started honoring National Physician Suicide Awareness Day on Sept. 17. UNMH then broadened the scope of the awareness to suicide in general and altered the format to be one week long.
UNM will continue honoring Suicide Prevention Awareness Month throughout next week until Sept. 16 with webinars, observances and a self-care room.
Annya Loya is the news editor at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @annyaloya