Brotman Hall was illuminated by about 600 candlelit paper bags yesterday as students gathered for a candlelight vigil in memoriam for those impacted by suicide.
The Cal State Long Beach candlelight vigil was hosted by Project OCEAN (On Campus Emergency Assistance Network) whose mission is to promote suicide prevention and eliminate stigmas attached to mental illness.
An estimated 1,100 American college students commit suicide every year while many students suffering from depression silently contemplate suicide, according to Nancy Trinh, a peer educator for Project OCEAN.
Volunteers passed out paper bags for attendees to write personal messages on that promoted support, love and community awareness.
When the sun set around 6:30 p.m., the luminous bags brightened and spelled out the word “HOPE,” and attendees held a moment of silence in respect of suicide victims.
This year marks the first time that multiple California college campuses held a candlelight vigil at the same time.
San Jose State University organized the first candlelight vigil in memoriam of suicide victims on its campus last fall and wanted to unify the event throughout California college campuses by holding the vigil at the same time and date this year.
The vigil brought together 19 California college campuses, as students and community supporters gathered to light electric candles and spread a message of hope.
“Most people will go through a mental health issue in their life, and college students are often vulnerable from transitioning being away from home,” said Jennifer Young, a CSULB counselor and Project OCEAN coordinator.
Participants at the event included students, faculty and members from the Long Beach community, as the event was open to all.
Some who attended the event were survivors of suicide and placed illuminated bags along the fountain wall, in memory of their personal struggle.
Kris Schweitzer, a junior art major, said he lost his sister to suicide in August 2012 and felt a new sense of community support from the event.
“It’s strange to be here because I’m in this situation as a survivor of suicide and never thought I’d be in this situation,” Schweitzer said. “I feel this event shows support and outreach for students in my situation.”
Planning for the event began in July, and was state funded by CalMHSA (California Mental Health Services Authority) through Proposition 63.
Some participants at the event voiced how the vigil was important in providing students with resources.
“A lot of people are suffering, and this event is showing students a lot of resources available on campus,” Gwen Policarpio, a senior community health science major, said.
Four mental health and suicide awareness support booths with informational pamphlets were available at the event, including Counseling and Psychological Services, Suicide Prevention Center, “Active Minds” club and Del Amo Hospital.
Volunteers at the event included various fraternity organizations, university students and Project OCEAN members.
“Life is tough sometimes and little things like this make a difference,” Tony Tran, a volunteer and senior health science major, said.
The inspirational messages on the bag included one from Schweitzer to his sister, who had a passion for music.
“You are my light but you shine bright in the night,” Schweitzer’s message said.