College is a time for people to explore who they really are and to live through so many monumental moments in their lives. However, it can also be a time of struggle and trauma.
I have been on academic probation and have had to make a catastrophic withdrawal because of my mental health. I just gave up. One bad day, and then it takes me months to get back on track. Having conversations with my professors has done wonders for me academically. I was terrified I was going to have them laugh at me and tell me good luck. But instead, these wonderful people cared. They wanted to see me succeed and not struggle, especially in their class. Having these candid conversations is the key to a lot in life.
On Sunday, November 4, 2018, I went back to my home in Arcata, CA, after spending the weekend in San Jose. I noticed a vehicle stopped on the Eel River Bridge, between Rio Dell and Fortuna, with the drivers’ door open and no lights. I pulled over in front of the car after seeing a man walking past the front of the car and walking towards the bridge’s railing. I ended up slowly running my car onto the bridge because I noticed something on his back that looked like a gun holster.
I parked my car with the hazard lights on, concerned that a drunk driver in the middle of the Eel River Bridge also had a gun. I got out of my car with my pepper spray because I was unsure of what was happening but still felt the need to help this man. Since I believed that it was a drunk driver, I started talking to him from a distance and offered him some cookies, but then he started rocking back and forth on the railing. It’s when I knew that this man wasn’t a drunk driver, but instead, a man who needed help or else he would be at the bottom of the bridge.
I ran to my car to grab my phone and call 911. As I was doing that, I tried to wave down every car that drove past, but no one did. I was so scared for him and myself before I saw those red and blue lights.
I was sitting in my car with the other car’s lights in my face, and I could only see silhouettes. I had been curled up in my seat, trying to hide from any possible dangers, especially since I thought he had a gun. I was fearful that the gun would go off and go towards my car. I saw a flash of light, and then people were tackling the man. I watched as the ambulance drove by my car with him strapped in the back. We made eye contact.
This man was going to jump off a bridge, something I almost did myself so many years ago. I know what it feels like to stand on the edge and look down below you and wait for the right moment to jump. There’s a fear of the unknown, but it’s an almost calm fear that numbs your body and mind.
But I didn’t, that moment never came, and I immediately felt like a failure because I couldn’t even take one step forward. It took some time for me to realize I wasn’t a failure, I wasn’t weak– I was strong because I didn’t take a step forward. I took a step back, and then another, until I was safe and I wasn’t standing on that edge looking down at the world below me.
Everyone suffers from mental health issues, even if they are the slightest thing. Untreated and ignored, it can snowball quickly before anyone even realizes something is wrong. It’s a part of being human, and we need to recognize it and speak about it. Most people see it as taboo to admit something is wrong– “oh, I’m just a bit sad, but it’s alright,” or “no, I’m FINE.”
But you’re not fine, and that’s okay. Humboldt is a beautiful place, but it can also be a terrible place, especially for mental health. Finding resources and people to confide in, can at times, be a struggle. Talking about it, offering your triumphs, speaking of ways to get help, resources, and normalizing mental health is how we can help others and ourselves.