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Gabriela Gonzalez

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In Loving Memory of My Sister An 80's Angel - My sister loved the 80's and never stopped being an 80's kid at heart!

The call that changed my life came right after lunch on a Wednesday. “My mom, my mom,” was all my niece on the other end of the phone could say between sobs. I knew then, without hearing anything more, that my big sister had taken her own life. She was 40. The signs had been there, even if they were vague and seemingly disconnected.

There was the handwritten letter she mailed me five years earlier, when for the first time she vocalized feelings of isolation, hopelessness and suicidal thoughts to me. There was the hushed talk I sometimes overheard from my mom, about the anxiety and depression. And there was the despondent woman I found just a few days earlier, pleading for help.

But I never really thought it would end like this. Why didn’t I do anything? The question still rings in my head, eight years later. I wish I would have known what I know today. I wish I had understood mental illness and its affects. I wish I had been familiar with all the signs and what to do.

Although the pain will never entirely fade, God has turned my pain into purpose. God has put it on my heart to talk to others and share my story. The topic of suicide and mental illness continues to be an uncomfortable one to discuss, however I am always surprised by the amount of people who eventually approach me about their own experiences.

Mental illness is real and it claims the lives of many Americans. Mental illness can affect anyone – an ordinary woman like my sister, a successful athlete like Junior Seau or a beloved comedian like Robin Williams.

The statistics are staggering. Approximately one in five adults in the U.S.— 43.8 million, or 18.5 percent – experiences mental illness in a given year. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. and the second leading cause of death for people aged 15–24, according to National Alliance of Mental illness.

It’s been said that those who take their lives are “selfish” and/or “weak,” but our military men and women who lay their lives on the line for us are some of the most selfless and bravest people out there, yet this illness claims their lives.

The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that 20 to 22 veterans die per day from suicide. This is one loss every 65 minutes, totaling 8,030 deaths per year -- nearly 20 percent of all suicides in the United States. The most affected men and women are our Vietnam-era veterans and our recent veterans.

I often think of my sister and have a sweet little reminder of her tattooed on my wrist. It was the smiley face she was known to draw next to her name. I have several of her journals that have further helped me understand what she might have been going through. “I feel like I have nothing yet I have everything.” “I don’t understand why my head won’t stay still.” “I sometimes think about taking my life but then I think about my kids and who will care for them.” And “I want to get better.” These are just a few of the writings that really tell the story of someone who was in pain, wasn’t sure why, was concerned for her children and desperately wanted to get better.

She wrote about being embarrassed to talk to me or anyone else about what she was experiencing. The stigma was clearly a barrier.

The problem is suicide doesn’t end the pain, it transfers it.

The brain is an organ like any other part of our body and it too can become ill. Like any other illness it should be treated, but most people don’t ask for help due to the stigma.

My hope and prayer is that we beat the battle against the stigma that surrounds suicide and mental illness. There is HOPE and IT’S OK TO ASK FOR HELP!

Please join me in my efforts to raise suicide awareness and help save lives.


When you participate in the Save A Life San Diego Community Walk, your tax-deductible contribution supports the special partnership between San Diego Chapter of Yellow Ribbon Suicide Prevention Program® and Survivors of Suicide Loss-San Diego by strengthening our suicide outreach and prevention programs and survivor support services for all San Diegans. You are also helping to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness and suicide.




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