Throughout his life, Pablo Campos struggled with anger, depression, stress and loneliness.
Instead of seeking help and talking about his hardships, Campos chose to bottle up his emotions and turn to vandalism, alcohol and drugs.
“I created this internal pressure within me while I was dealing with external pressures. With all of this pressure, it started triggering me,” Campos said.
By his senior year of high school, Campos became so overwhelmed by these pressures that he attempted suicide by driving more than 100 miles per hour and crashing into a barrier on the freeway.
“I couldn’t see a future or a way forward, and I wanted to disappear,” Campos said. “I was my own worst enemy. The reason for that was because of the stigma I was feeling and the need to tough it out.”
With support of Saugus High School’s Not One More Teen Suicide Active Minds Club and the Matthew Silverman Memorial Foundation, Campos shared his story of depression, recovery and acceptance with students at the school Friday.
“I think…the more that these first-person accounts are shared, the more common it becomes and the less it becomes a stigma to say the word suicide,” said Julie Land-Ghodsi, director of the Matthew Silverman Memorial Foundation. “Most of these kids have felt some sort of hardships or struggle with feelings and to hear that it’s normal is so important.”
Campos, now a student at North Carolina State University working to become a licensed clinical social worker, shares his story for countless schools each year to encourage others to seek help, build peer support and create a healthier sense of community
“I’m here to help encourage and change the conversation around mental health and talk about ADHD, anxiety, depression, addiction and suicide in a relatable way,” Campos said. “One in four students struggle from an undiagnosed and treatable illness, but only one third of these one in four seeks help.”
Campos himself understands these statistics firsthand as he himself struggled with mental illness but did not seek help because of a lack of education about mental health and substance abuse.
Campos, whose parents moved to the United States before he was born, also found it difficult to juggle Guatemalan and U.S. cultures, especially when it came to emotional expression.
“I started putting this mask on… and I was bottling up my emotions,” Campos said.
To cope with this numbness, as Campos describes it, he turned to risky behaviors and polysubstance abuse, which intensified his undiagnosed ADHD.
These co-occurring disorders pushed Campos to attempt to take his own life his senior year of high school. After several stays at rehab facilities and treatment centers, Campos was able to find a clear diagnosis, develop a strong support network and begin a road to recovery.
“I knew I had a strong foundation to keep going and keep getting better,” Campos said of his family, friends, soccer, new job and dog, which helped him reach 10 years of sobriety this year.
Today, Campos hopes that sharing his struggles will raise awareness of mental health and change the conversation around mental health.
“Talk about mental health, reach out to friends, help each other be the best version of yourselves,” Campos said. “Together, we can make a better society and better culture for all of us that can be lifesaving.”
The Matthew Silverman Memorial Foundation hopes Campos’ presentation also helps residents in the Santa Clarita Valley have honest conversations about bullying, mental health and suicide.
“Unfortunately, Santa Clarita and this area is much more resistant to mental health and suicide prevention in high schools than anywhere else in Los Angeles. There’s already been four suicides in Santa Clarita that we know of in 2018,” said Candace Yoder, executive director of the Matthew Silverman Memorial Foundation. “This generation is the mental health generation and we’re going to fight this and we’re going to win.”
If you or someone you know needs help, take action now by calling the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), The Los Angeles county Department of Mental Health’s Access Center Helpline at 1-800-854-7771 or 911. All services are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
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