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Walking for peace, Sept. 16

A “threshold concept” is something that one is aware of and understands to a certain extent, but it is the actual experience of the concept that makes it real. My threshold concept was transformed and made real the moment I found myself frozen in shock after receiving the text telling me that my former classmate and friend had taken their life. My “concept” of suicide was suddenly real, as was the pain of losing someone close to me. Unfortunately, that is what is happening rapidly to many across Kern County.

Mental health and suicide awareness are nothing new. Ivanna Randall (southkernsol.org) states, “Overall suicide rates within California are 10.5 per 100,000 people, while the Kern County average is 13.6.” She goes on to explain that the reason for a higher average could be these areas are generally more secluded. This could cause the inhabitants to feel more isolated, which can lead to poor mental health and possibly suicide. Another reason could be that the gun laws in rural areas are different than ones in more populated areas, as Randall states. In my opinion, this lack of mental peace is concerning.

Depression and suicide can happen anywhere, not just in rural areas. It can happen whether one has access to guns or weapons. The American Association of Suicidology states in their article, Some Facts about Suicide and Depression, “...Seven out of every 100 men and one in 100 women who have been diagnosed with depression in their lifetime will go on to commit suicide.” However and wherever it happens, something can be done.

As suicide rates in the United States rise, the issue becomes more pressing. How many more lives will be lost before there is a change? The first step is awareness, and this awareness has had a resurgence in the hearts and minds of Tehachapi youth. Valley Oaks and Tehachapi High School Interact clubs are teaming up with the Rotary Club and the Tehachapi Valley Healthcare District to do a walk to bring this issue to light. The Peace walk, last year known as the Mental Health Awareness walk, will take place on Sept. 16 at 10 a.m. The group will be meeting at Centennial Plaza’s Peace Pole to begin the walk. After the walk, everyone will meet at Kelcy’s restaurant, where the winners of the Peace Art Contest will be announced, and all the entries will be on display.

I encourage everyone to stop by and take part in this walk. Suicide touches us all. The topic can be a heavy one and is difficult to talk about, but it needs to be discussed. If you or anyone you know has had this lack of peace, say something. There are more people willing to talk and rooting for you than you probably realize. While it can be intimidating, the person of concern can be approached and asked respectfully and gently if they have been considering suicide. There is the worry of angering or embarrassing the person, but that is preferred over the loss of their life. If needed, the national suicide hotline is 988. Reach out and say something. You could be the difference in someone’s life.

Elliott Gonzales is a 12th grade student and Interact Club President at Valley Oaks Charter School.