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Dec 12, 2018
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Illustration by Casey Supple/TheCollegian

We can turn tragedy into strength

In a matter of three weeks, Fresno State lost two students who were dearly loved by their campus peers.

On Jan. 3, we learned of the death of Omar Nemeth. He was 19. His cause of death: an accidental drug overdose.

On Jan. 17, we learned of the death of Ana Alcantar. She was 21. Her cause of death: suicide.

Fresno State is a campus currently reeling from tragic loss. From accounts given to our reporters, Nemeth and Alcantar were two very well-known students and had bright futures ahead of them.

Last week during a vigil held for Alcantar, Fresno State President Dr. Joseph Castro said it best.

“We must take this energy from tonight and learning about all the things that Ana did here on our campus, and use that energy in the coming days and weeks and months and years,” Castro told a crowd of students in mourning.

It is true. We must use the energy exhibited by Alcantar and Nemeth and use it to move forward.

And we must use that energy to not only help us recover from the pain of losing someone, but to prevent the loss of another friend and classmate.

Nemeth was studying biochemistry. He wanted to cure drug addiction, his friend said. Alcantar was studying business administration and communications. Her involvement in countless activities and clubs showed us all that she was a true campus leader.

In reporting this tragic news to the campus, Collegian reporters learned that there is regret and a feeling of having not been able to do more to prevent the deaths.

Nemeth’s friends believe they should have stepped in when they had a chance to steer him in a direction that could have prevented his early death. Alcantar’s friends wish they would have reached out sooner before they lost her.

But it’s not too late. There is still more we can do as we stay behind and tackle the issues in society that contribute to death among the younger populations.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention lists suicide as the No. 2 leading cause of death among those between the ages of 10 and 24. The center recommends that we know the signs of despair and help our friends when they may need it most.

It’s not an easy question to ask someone. But we must know whether they are intending to harm themselves.

We must listen carefully. We must connect them with resources and mental health experts trained to treat behavior that may lead to suicide. The CDC also suggests we stay connected with our loved ones after they have been treated for mental health issues.

We must be honest with ourselves after a tragedy and seek help for ourselves and for our friends.

Drug abuse is no different. Nemeth’s friend, who spoke to The Collegian, aims to honor his life and paint the sophomore as more than someone who abused drugs. We must discuss drug abuse.

Fresno police said in a news conference that Nemeth’s death was caused by an accidental overdose on Xanax pills, an anti-anxiety medication. The CDC warns that using these drugs without a prescription can turn into abuse. We must be willing to step in and offer help and resources to our struggling peers.

This university has experienced loss many times before. This won’t be the last time, either.

The recent deaths were different in nature. They touched two very different bodies of students on campus. But in a very real sense, Nemeth and Alcantar were us.

We must come together to see a way forward that includes averting further tragedy. We can turn tragedy into strength.

Editorials represent the majority opinion of Collegian editors.

RESOURCES:

  • If you or someone you know is in a crisis situation, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255).
  • For counseling services, visit the Fresno State Student Health and Counseling Center, located at the corner of Barton and Keats avenue on campus. Contact the center at 559-278-2734. Hours are from 8 a.m to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Services are limited between noon and 1 p.m.
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