STC’s Mid-Valley campus hosts “Out of the Darkness” community walk
Mission native Lizette Hernandez and her team walked in honor of her late brother.
South Texas College student Lauren Izaguirre knows what it’s like to suffer from depression. That experience inspired her to participate in the Mid-Valley “Out of the Darkness” Community Walk, held recently at the STC Mid-Valley campus.
The community walk was hosted by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) South Texas chapter in partnership with STC.
Izaguirre was one of the hundreds of people in attendance who shared their personal stories in hopes of helping to break the stigma associated with seeking mental health care. She was recently released from a rehabilitation center after an attempt to end her own life.
“I came out of the center, and I realized that I had so much support from my family and my friends,” Izaguirre said. “I had never felt more like wanting to be active in the community. I don't want to waste my time. I feel like I always wasted my time being anxious and not speaking up or not participating in things that I wanted to do.”
Izaguirre, whose team’s name, “Team Lauren,” was created in her honor and included family, classmates and one of her STC instructors, said being able to share her mental health journey has brought her relief and confidence.
“I used to be so afraid of telling my family how I really feel,” Izaguirre said. “At that moment, when they made the choice to send me to the hospital, I saw how they loved me. They did this because they love me. It truly brought us together as a family. I feel very solid now and good.”
Since the pandemic, one in three college students has suffered from mental health issues. That’s according to a study done by Deloitte, an international auditing firm. The same study reports that rates of depression and anxiety among college students have doubled in the last decade.
I realized that I had so much support from my family and my friends. I had never felt more like wanting to be active in the community. I don't want to waste my time. I feel like I always wasted my time being anxious and not speaking up or not participating in things that I wanted to do.”
STC Psychological Science Professor Yvonne Chapa, Ph.D., said for a community to heal, it is important that individuals advocate in their communities. While helping organize the event, Chapa said she encountered numerous individuals who have either lost someone to suicide or have experienced suicidal tendencies themselves.
“We’re all here as a community to help each other get through it,” Chapa said. “Because we may not be experiencing it now or say, “As long as it's not affecting me,” but you never know when you, a family member or friend will be the next victim of depression, anxiety or suicide. And, if they know the resources, where to go, how to prevent it, and what the signs are, then that’s one life that we saved.”
Guest speakers at the Mid-Valley event included State Rep. Armando Martinez, STC Psychology Professors Orlando Rodriguez, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and Alex Sarabia, a licensed counselor, discussed the most common signs of depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts.
Walk participants were also encouraged to wear colored “honor beads” to indicate how they lost a loved one to suicide.
Among the sea of colors was Lizette Hernandez of Mission. Hernandez said her family lost her brother to suicide in June. The family wanted to participate to bring awareness to gender bias in mental health treatment.
“We have this culture where men can't really speak out,” Hernandez said. “They feel like they're alone. So, we want to bring awareness that men can look for professional help. It’s not just for women. I know my sister and I have sought professional help, but he never did. He always felt like he was alone.”
Chapa said the Psychology department also wanted to promote the courses that are offered at STC to help meet the demand for professionals in the field of mental health.
“There's one psychologist for every 200,000 people, so we're in dire need,” Chapa, a provisional licensed psychologist, said. “We want to explain what courses STC has to offer students to help them enter this field and prepare them to advance to a four-year college or university. For some people, part of the healing process could be them pursuing a career and giving help to those individuals to prevent suicide.”
Izaguirre’s experience has given her the drive to reach out to others. She is currently pursuing an associate degree in Psychology from STC.
“I want to help prevent (suicide attempts), and prevention can start with one person and then slowly reach other people,” Izaguirre said. “If I can stop myself, then I can help someone else.”
STC offers mental health counseling services to students to assist in resolving crisis or personal issues such as coping with depression and anxiety; physical, emotional or
sexual abuse; alcohol or drug abuse, anger management and reducing stress. In addition, the department can also provide referrals to related services.
To learn more about STC’s Counseling Services, visit southtexascollege.edu/counseling. Additional resources can also be found at www.afsp.org/get-help or www.afsp.org/resources.
The number to the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is 988.