Tree-like street lamps line the road, their green iron trunks and ornate branches bear glowing orbs, guiding dog walkers and drivers alike. Most recently it was featured in the film “La La Land,” providing the romantic backdrop on which the main characters shared an intimate stroll. The flat, widespread road is a striking juxtaposition to the intricate curvatures and pattern of arches that make up the base of the concrete wonder.
But amidst the beauty and grandeur are hints to the misfortune the location lures.
In the haze of the Hollywood acclaimed lights, signs and handwritten appeals adorn the bridge. “There is hope” a bright blue sign reads, followed by the number of a prevention hotline . Another, scrawled on the side of the bridge, simply reads, “Don’t jump.” Partially obscuring the view of below is a recent addition to the bridge: tall green fencing.
Half macabre, half affectionate, locals refer to it as the “Suicide Bridge.” The bridge has attained infamy due to the amount of suicides and attempts it has played host to. One of the most popular stories tells the tale of a young Myrtle Ward, who threw herself and her three-year-old daughter, Jean, over the edge of the bridge. Jean survived, her fall cushioned by bushes and trees. There was a great spike in jumps during the Great Depression, and the trend continued long after. From butlers to teenagers, the bridge has claimed a wide spectrum of victims, according to LA Weekly.
Heartbreak. Loss. Rejection. Loneliness. The thoughts and emotions of those on the bridge are neither ghost stories nor history. As suicide remains one of the leading causes of death in the country, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, the bridge serves as a reminder of society’s widespread struggle with mental health. The PCC community is not immune from the struggle, as psychological services sees a number of students facing a wide range of mental health issues.
According to PCC psychologist Dr. Erica Phillips, education and awareness are paramount to facilitating a positive and supportive environment for mental health. As such, there are several traits and behaviors that may be cause for concern, including: giving away belongings, speaking as if there is an “end date,” or erratic changes in behavior, to name a few.
The initial step when helping an individual struggling with mental health is to keep them open-minded, Phillips explained. It is important to remind the individual that professionals are eager and willing to listen to their perspective, plan for future support, and teach coping skills.
Providing a stable support system is another key to helping those struggling with mental health.
“We have friends, bring friends, just so that they get the idea that it’s a lot more comfortable in here, then a lot of stigma tells us,” Phillips said. “We see in movies and it’s very sterile or they’re on a couch and they’re just talking and the doctor is very inhuman sometimes. It’s not [like] that here”.
However, it is also vital to acknowledge and accept boundaries within the relationship says Phillips.
“We love that you guys have friends and you empower each other but there’s got to be space for that in a professional environment, you can’t put that weight on another student,” Phillips said. “It’s a lot.”
Despite its importance, campus efforts to educate on mental health through events and resources seem to wither before reaching the public.
“I definitely think it should be advertised a lot more,” said PCC student Bernadette Arias. “I know a lot of clubs here are fun but there are a lot of things that are stressful and I think that there should be clubs that revolve around the whole idea of mental issues and how we can deal with them.”
Jennifer Martinez, a fellow PCC student, agrees with the need for awareness, while recognizing her limited knowledge of the topic.
“I’ve seen posters, but this is my first year and I haven’t heard much about it,” she said.
A second area for improvement can be found within the confines of the classroom. Phillips says Psych Services strive to educate professors by teaching them to recognize worrisome behaviors and the skills to direct students to outside resources.
Arias agrees with the idea of professors as a first line of defense.
“I think mental health should be brought up when first getting to know a class, to deal with any issues beforehand, before anything gets worse,” she said.
However, despite the campus’ mute promotional efforts, one often overlooked resource is deserving of praise: campus police. They help alleviate seemingly small, but practical worries by offering transportation for students in mental distress and holding bikes and cars for students who require immediate medical treatment.
“We are so grateful for them,” said Phillips.
Leiah Garcia, a PCC student who spent ten years of his life as a ward of the state, moving from various mental institutions, offered his perspective of the campus’ treatment of mental health.
“We think we can be number one. We also believe we can be a better person and it’s like, ‘what change can I bring upon a person without having too much to do with them,” he said. “And that just is mental health.”
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