carlos galindo-elvira

I decided that for 5782 to start right, I have to share my truth. For this, I found strength and inspiration in the words of Rabbi David Wolpe: “A good year is not a perfect year, a triumphant year or even an easy year. It is a year in which we see goodness and do goodness.” By speaking out and bringing awareness to the issue of suicidal ideation, I have the opportunity to do goodness.

Behind the drive to end my life was a stubborn voice continuously whispering, “You have no value.” I was always depressed and lonely, even in a full room of people. I recognized having to take sedatives to get through the day wasn’t a normal or healthy way to exist. I lost sleep, lethargy set in and weight gain further added to my depression.

In the spirit of commemorating World Mental Health Day, which fell on Oct. 10, I’m choosing to help others and encourage them to seek help, especially if self-harm is about alleviating the pain of despair. Honestly, I can identify with this mental health issue and can confirm suicidal ideation and standing on the final ledge is real. I felt chained to hopelessness.

What started as a storm of sadness grew into a hurricane of helplessness. On Jan. 18, 2019, I put a bottle of sleeping pills in my pocket and headed out for the day. The day progressed slowly. There was one thing I needed to do before taking the bottle out of my pocket to use: talk to someone. I talked with a personal friend and vented — a lot. I shared my feelings and my shame. My friend heard me out patiently, expressed support and offered advice. I drove home that evening, handed my wife the bottle and went to bed.

The stigma associated with mental health was a barrier to seeking help earlier. Mental health is not commonly a topic of conversation at many families' kitchen tables. Seeking help became my priority. I decided shame and fear was not going to hold me back from sitting down with a therapist and getting the help I desperately needed.

After twenty calls, I was able to get an appointment to see a psychiatrist, which then led to anti-depression and anti-anxiety prescriptions and an appointment with a therapist. I finally sat across a desk sharing details and feelings freely with a professional.

There’s reality in what Dr. Jonathan Singer, past president of the American Association of Suicidology and associate professor at Loyola University Chicago School of Social Work, has said about this struggle: “The suicidal person often feels like a burden to others, sees their pain as endless and suicide not as necessarily the best option but the only option.”

The propensity for suicidal ideation subsided while I was in therapy but didn’t fully go away. There were times when I experienced setbacks triggering dark thoughts. I recall one of those moments while on a flight in late March of 2019. I felt crushed while I wrote the following: “You look at yourself. Your hands. Your eyes. There’s no spell to cast to stop the persistent voice telling you to be invisible and that your worth has evaporated.”

After months of therapy and looking for a better me, I was renewed and began to think of a future and to look forward. I found hope and regained creativity.

I was relieved of the oppressive weight of the mask I wore. There was no longer a need for the exhausting task of a forced, fake public smile. I was a very public person, gave speeches, used social media to enable my “happy” side and attended numerous community events. Outwardly, people saw the smile, laughter, handshaking — an extrovert. Inside I was an introvert with an altogether different and dark mental environment.

There was an intense need for me to learn more. How many more people suffered through the experience of suicidal ideation, or worse, took their lives? I researched statistics and discovered the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, which annually publishes statistics on suicide from the CDC Data & Statistics Fatal Injury Report. The 2019 Arizona statistics revealed the following:

Suicide was the eighth-leading cause of death in Arizona.

Over five times as many people died by suicide in 2019 than in alcohol-related motor vehicle accidents.

57.01% of all suicides were by firearms.

There were 1,419 suicide deaths in Arizona.

The AFSP also provides statistics on suicide for each state and a link to get help and find support for yourself or those who may be at risk for suicide.

I survived because I talked to someone who listened and cared, saw a therapist who helped me put my life and challenges in perspective and had the love of my wife and family. The dark thoughts are gone. I am lending my voice to this urgent cause as we need increased understanding around this subject and to have tough conversations with family members and friends.

With ever-growing confidence and a feeling of self-worth, I have come to appreciate more the choice of Joshua as my Hebrew name. That had vanished for a while, but now it is the way that I am living: Be strong and of good courage.

I am no longer afraid or ashamed. JN

If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at

800-273-8255, text HOME to 741741; For teens, call or text Teen Crisis Line at 602-248-8336 (TEEN).

Carlos Galindo-Elvira is director of community engagement & partnerships for Chicanos Por La Causa, a nonprofit empowering people in Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico and Texas.