City College hosts suicide prevention fair

Festivities were aimed at getting students to open up about mental health.


Sonny Garibay

Arturo Vallesteros was one of many students to take part in the Suicide Prevention Fair. Photo by Sonny Garibay

Sonny Garibay and Vicky Pineda

San Diego City College’s Student Health Center hosted its yearly Suicide Prevention Fair in collaboration with local community organizations on campus on Wednesday. 

The annual event, with its lively feel and friendly approach, raised awareness about preventing suicide while also reducing the stigma to ask for help.

“Seeing people smiling and dancing and talking about mental health and suicide prevention at the same time is like a dream,” said Abby Burd, a City College Mental Health counselor. “People think mental health is so depressing … No, we can celebrate life and talk about things that people are afraid to talk about.”

The Student Health Center is the first stop for any student’s physical or mental health needs, and students can take advantage of these services for no additional charge because they are covered by the student health fee. 

With live music playing in the background, courtesy of math professor and DJ Dr. Rob Rubalcaba, students de-stressed with activities that included coloring, board games and yoga.      

The commotion of the fair attracted students who were unaware of the event.

“I just saw a whole group of people around here and I thought, ‘Oh, what’s going on?,’” City College student Arturo Vallesteros said.

Interested students were given passports that they could use to collect stamps and redeem for pizza after visiting the mental health and community partners booths. 

For instance, a stamp could be collected for completing one of the anonymous surveys provided by Mental Health.

The surveys were preliminary screenings, not diagnostic tools, and after completion, students were given the option to schedule an appointment with a counselor on campus. 

“It was pretty helpful,” Vallesteros said. “You take the (assessment) that you believe is most relevant to yourself. You have a lot of freedom about what you want to talk about.”

According to Burd, 15 new appointments were set by students who had never used Mental Health services. The assessments are also available online.

Removing the stigma associated with simply asking for help is one of the fair’s primary goals, Burd said.

“You don’t have to be crazy to talk to a counselor,” she said. “We all deserve to have professional, unbiased support.” 

Vallesteros would recommend that more City College students take advantage of future events hosted by Mental Health.

“Going here will give you a lot of information … and maybe that could save a life,” he said.

Suicide Lifeline: If you or someone you know may be struggling with suicidal thoughts, you can call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) any time of day or night, text COURAGE to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or chat online.