College EOPS highlights importance of suicide awareness: First-person account shared at PVC advisory meeting

"We saw that a student was isolating. Sitting, looking down. And, for the first time, I asked someone, 'Are you suicidal?' And (the student) said, 'Yes I am,'" shared Palo Verde College (PVC) Extended Opportunity Programs and Services (EOPS)/Cooperative Agencies Resources for Education (CARE) Director Maria "Machi" Rivera during an advisory meeting, Dec. 18. (Photo by Uriel Avendano/Palo Verde Valley Times)

At the Dec. 18 Palo Verde College (PVC) Extended Opportunity Programs and Services (EOPS)/Cooperative Agencies Resources for Education (CARE) Advisory Meeting, the importance of resources and awareness on suicide prevention was underlined by a personal account of response by staff to a student in need.

“We noticed that during our first EOPS contact, many of our students shared that they were homeless and struggling with mental health issues. So, we wrote a mini grant to Riverside University Health System (RUHS) for $5,000, (which was approved)” stated EOPS/CARE Director Maria “Machi” Rivera’s presentation to attendees. “With the assistance of the grant, we were able to provide services to our EOPS students and future students from the community. We were also able to (provide) supplies that could help them de-stress. This grant also helped our students to start a conversation about getting help.”

Along with staff providing campus students with outside resources – including contacts to assist 24/7 – the RUHS “Each Mind Matters” grant provided the opportunity for PVC to host three campus events on how to prevent suicide, and other self-help techniques.

As shared by Rivera, one facet of suicide awareness training provided with staff highlighted some of the symptoms and signs persons can identify in those needing help.

Further, Rivera noted the importance of pushing past negative stigmas or reservations about the subject in order to address – and, ultimately, prevent – potential situations.

“We saw that a student was isolating. Sitting, looking down. And, for the first time, I asked someone, ‘Are you suicidal?’ And (the student) said, ‘Yes I am,’” said Rivera, who provided according resources. “And she said, ‘When I was in (out of town), I had two episodes. When we came back to Blythe, my mother said, ‘Don’t tell anybody this happened. Act like it never happened.’ So, (EOPS Instructional Services Technician I) Alicia (Prieto) and I were talking, ‘Oh my god. These programs do work.’ So that got us more motivated to help out more students. So we did.”

As noted by Rivera, the grant still has about $2,000 to move forward with.

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