Navani Knows: Tears for Vanessa

I am crying for someone I don’t know and I am not sure why.  Her name was Vanessa Libertad Garcia.

That’s probably not true, I do know why.  There are many reasons. Partly because I am a sap who can easily and deeply feel the energy and pain of others. A trait I often times wish I could shut off because it makes me appear weak and over “emotional” most of the time (just ask my ex-boyfriends).

But the other part, the deeper underlying ugly-truth part, knows it is because there is something achingly familiar I see in reading the story of the suicide of writer/filmmaker Vanessa Libertad Garcia. I didn’t know her, but after reading her public online suicide note, I easily could have.

She could easily have been part of my family – my cousin, my uncle, my brother, or me. Dealing with the struggle of depression, anxiety and suicide is not a subject foreign to my family. It’s a rising concern for Latinos in general. But sadly it’s not a concern that is spoken about. Whether it is because having these feelings of inner turmoil are shameful and embarrassing to admit, or maybe because the machismo attitude of our culture labels needing mental health help a total taboo, I can’t really call it. But what I know is that not addressing these issues is leading to the rise of Latino suicide, especially in young people.

I remember hearing Felipe Luciano speak at an event recently about his past involvement with the Young Lords. He mentioned how he was affected by seeing so many of our people living in a fog of self-hate and destitute. He remarked that it is easy to hate yourself when you are a displaced people living in a country and a society that constantly says you are garbage and don’t belong. If that’s all you know and think, of course this must wreak havoc on the socio and psychological realm of a people. And I wonder how much of that is ingrained for generations to come. It’s 2013 and I still struggle with issues of identity and self worth, of feeling like not belonging. This is not a brand new phenomenon. So combine identity issues with poverty and language barriers and you have recipe for self-inflicted disaster. I get it.

I am sad because there are people in my life struggling with this disease as I write this and I don’t know how to help them. I feel powerless. I am crying for someone I don’t know because I fear this will happen to someone I do know. I don’t want her death to be in vain. Because hopefully, her public note means we cannot ignore this anymore and sweep it under the rug.

I don’t know what to do but here is what I can say: To all those in pain right now reading this, you are not alone. I promise you. I promise someone near you can empathize. I promise that you matter to someone very much. You are loved. You are worthy of love no matter what you did and didn’t do. No matter what you haven’t accomplished. No matter how much debt you are in. What title you have or don’t have. No matter what mistakes you’ve made. No matter how confused you are. No matter how much you think you have failed, you haven’t! You can’t fail at life. I promise there is always another chance to make a new choice and start again. You are here and that is enough. You have always been enough. I love you.

And If you ever get to the point of siting at your computer, typing a public letter to announce your planned demise, I implore you to pick up the phone and call someone instead.