● By Super Admin
Photo by Dante Fontana.
The premature death of a young person to suicide is a loss so grievous, so unimaginably tragic, and so unequivocally horrific, that the mere thought of it is shattering. The aftermath of adolescent suicide cannot be sufficiently explained except perhaps to say that there is no pain to equal it.
But for Vivian Hurtado-Figueira, not only was there life after loss, but much to gain.
Seeking to understand the death of her own daughter, a victim of both a bipolar condition and suicide, and perhaps to positively utilize the pain that resulted from it, Figueira founded the Suicide Prevention Education Action Resources (SPEAR), an El Dorado County-based nonprofit, as a memorial to her daughter and a way to help prevent the same fate from befalling local youth most susceptible to it. Now, more than a decade after it was established, SPEAR is fulfilling its mission to help the community’s at-risk teens develop self-esteem through the performing arts. “Our goal is to save as many children as possible,” says Figueira, who adds that while the efforts of SPEAR has, to date, helped to save the lives of nine young people, many more need similar assistance…perhaps more than anyone is comfortable admitting.
According to Figueira, rates of depression and suicide among teens and young people living in El Dorado County and beyond are alarmingly high, which statistics confirm. A 2006 fact sheet published by the American Association of Suicidology (AAS) attributes 3,343 deaths in California to suicide. In 2005 alone, AAS reports that of the 32,637 people that completed suicide nationwide, 4,212 of them were between the ages of 15 and 24, making prevention and early intervention crucial to combat this growing problem.
Among the classes SPEAR offers to do just that, which are taught by staff and Figueira (she has modeling, drama and commercial training), are career planning courses designed to foster self-esteem and teach interviewing techniques and lessons of social etiquette. The program, however, is largely arts-centric, and as such offers students career opportunities by providing information about professional presentation and audition preparedness, self-confidence and discipline, in addition to instruction on script memorization, working on projects, TV production and commercial drama, and related surface topics all aimed at sparking students’ artistic interests.
Figueira cites positive community support for SPEAR’s longevity. In fact, a recent walk-a-thon held to raise funds for the organization and its programs was a hugely successful reminder. “The proceeds from this event will be used to conduct educational seminars in mental health for parents and teens,” says Figueira, who further explains that SPEAR also intends to target students in Jackson, an area particularly affected by drugs and teen suicide.
For more information about SPEAR and its programs, or how you can get involved, call Vivian Hurtado-Figueira at 530-676-2119.