This story originally appeared in the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s 2020 Annual Report. Read more Volunteer Spotlight Stories, and watch videos of each volunteer sharing their experiences.
I discovered AFSP during my freshman year of college. My father had died by suicide in 2002, and we had also lost my uncle in 2009. I come from a large Hispanic family, and what had once been very close-knit, now had a sense of separation. Culturally, there was a stigma in which mental illness could be seen as a weakness or a flaw. That trauma can be passed down through generations.
It wasn’t until I got to college that I finally gave myself the opportunity to heal, and learn more. I helped bring our first Out of the Darkness Campus Walk to my college in 2011. It was a beautiful event, connecting with students who had shared experience with mental health. Each year, the event grew. In my final year before I graduated, I walked around my campus for two and a half miles with a hula hoop and 25 balloons. I was so proud and excited to see so many people come together for suicide prevention when it hadn’t been embraced just a few years prior. It felt so meaningful to bring young adults together, not only to support them, but to encourage and empower them to continue to speak out and support the cause, and even become professionals or stakeholders who can make a difference.
Culturally, there was a stigma in which mental illness could be seen as a weakness or a flaw. That trauma can be passed down through generations.
I am now studying to get my master’s degree in social work, with a concentration in mental health and addiction. I have continued to be involved with AFSP and our Indiana chapter over the years. It all started with the Campus Walks, and now includes advocacy, as well as supporting those who have lost someone.
I have a passion for this cause because it is from my own personal experience. I am so proud to be the one in my family who was able to break the cycle of not talking about it, and bring us back together again.
Watch Carmen share her story
Volunteer Carmen Diaz shares her enthusiasm for bringing students together and walking in support of suicide prevention on her college campus. Learn more about the Out of the Darkness Campus Walks.