Sean Feliciano was a student in his third year of college at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Born in Downey, he was the captain of his swim and water polo teams, an eagle scout and helped to start a new fraternity at his college.
In March of 2009, Feliciano committed suicide.
After Sean Feliciano’s death, his father, Bob Feliciano, decided to create the Amazing Day Foundation in Sean’s memory. The foundation would bring awareness to the issues of depression and suicide among college students.
Approximately 1,100 college students die by suicide every year. It is the No. 2 killer among college students. However, for every suicide that has been successful, there have been 100 to 200 attempts.
As well as trying to make partnerships with colleges across California, including Cal State Long Beach, the Amazing Day Foundation is holding its second annual walk called the Walk For Life in Downey on Sept. 10.
“I can’t bring Sean back, but I think Sean would be happy if I could save the other 1,100 Seans,” Bob Feliciano said.
The rate of suicides per year at CSULB is relatively low and consistently stays between zero and two every year.
CSULB offers services to students with depression and thoughts of suicide through the counseling and psychological services department (CAPS) and the on-campus emergency assistance network (OCEAN), a program to help prevent student suicides.
“Do whatever you can, not to be alone or isolated,” said Brad Compliment, director of counseling and psychological services.
For Sean Feliciano and many others, the transition to college was a major change.
In the spring of 2009, Sean signed himself into a hospital because the psychiatric drug he was taking, Effexor, was making him think about suicide.
The doctors at the hospital thought that Sean was a psychiatric threat and confined him to the hospital for a couple of days. When he was released, his doctor kept him on the same drug and doubled the dose.
In March of 2009, Sean wrote a letter informing his school that he was resigning immediately to take a year off and that he would like to come back to school in a year.
A couple of hours later, one of his fraternity brothers knocked on his door for dinner but heard the shower and decided to check back later. A few hours later, Sean’s classmate returned and, hearing the shower still running, kicked down the door to find that Sean had committed suicide.
Friends blamed themselves for not being able to see something was wrong.
“I feel like a bad friend,” said Andi Land, a close friend of Sean Feliciano’s. “How do I not know that he’s on anti-depressants? How do I not know that he’s having a hard time in Santa Barbara?”
But family and friends felt more than just self-blame for Sean’s death; they felt grief as well.
“My son’s death is probably the most horrible thing I’ve lived through,” Bob Feliciano said. “Twenty-five percent of me died with my son.”
Bob Feliciano said he believes that love and not medicine is the answer to depression and suicide among college students.
“Students can live through the rigors of college and depression,” he said. “Parents and friends and family have to understand the best solution to the problem is love, hugs and kisses.”