Six years after she died from suicide, Tessa Anderson’s image will be used to help potentially save the lives of other people.
The sign will be located at the 4200 block of North Main Street in front of O’Reilly Auto Parts, and will be unveiled at the location by Anderson’s family at a public ceremony Saturday at 2 p.m.
The sign will feature a photo of Anderson, a 14-year-old girl from Roswell who died from suicide in 2014; the phone number and website of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline; and the words: “It is OK to ask for help. There is hope.”
The sign was paid for with private donations raised by the Tessa Anderson Suicide Prevention Coalition — an organization co-founded by Anderson’s mother, Angie Gomez, to help families affected by suicide — and with the help of Diane Taylor.
“This sign is basically Tessa’s voice for help,” Taylor said. She added that she hopes to eventually have three other signs up, each on a road leading into or out of Roswell.
Gomez said she is excited about the sign and believes it and her daughter’s story could help others find relief.
“When you see a face it makes a difference,” she said.
The sign is modeled after signs that feature the faces of people who died as a result of auto accidents involving alcohol that currently can be seen along local highways coming into Roswell.
Jennifer Smith, co-founder of the Tessa Anderson Suicide Prevention Coalition, said high rates of suicide are something New Mexico has long had to wrestle with. Among states it ranks number four in suicides, according to 2017 data from the Centers for Disease Control.
The state’s rural and remote setting, wide availability of firearms and large number of Indian reservations are among the factors that contribute to this high number, according to Smith. A lack of healthcare providers focusing on suicide prevention means there are less resources for those in need of assistance.
Smith said the situation is even worse for Roswell and other communities in the southeast portion of New Mexico, which face a shortage of healthcare professionals focused on suicide prevention. And the closet facilities dedicated to helping juveniles are in Las Cruces or Santa Theresa.
“We are worse off than the northern part of the state just because we don’t have a lot of providers in the area and the ones we do, are booked up for months,” Smith said.
Gomez said the families of people who have died from suicide are also affected. Though suicide once was seen as a selfish act and one that had shame attached to it, she said that is not how it is thought of now. The families need to talk about their loss, she said.
“I think that when you talk about stuff like that it makes it easier, and it makes you remember that love that you had instead of the hurt you went through,” Gomez said.
It can also affect communities of people more broadly.
“It effects us as a community when one child dies by suicide,” she said.
Smith said suicide needs to not be stigmatized and that requires a change in the way people talk about it. For example, rather than saying someone committed suicide or describing a successful suicide, people should instead say that someone died of suicide or completed suicide, she said.
People who are facing a suicidal crisis and seeking assistance can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-Talk. Online chat services are also available at www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.