It’s been a year since Carla Ballesteros, a student at Damonte Ranch High School, died by suicide. KUNR’s Karina Gonzalez visited her family at her gravesite for what would have been her 17th birthday.
As a warning this story may be triggering to some listeners and if you are in crisis please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255.
Last year on May 24, Connie lost Carla to suicide after her daughter had struggled with depression and bullying.
Connie said that mental illness runs in her family.
“My mom had it, my grandma had it and I have it. My daughter had it, unfortunately. It's very hard for others to understand it. I understand my daughter. I know why she did it. It's hard. As a parent, I don't blame her for anything because I understand her pain. I understand why she did it. I know a lot [of] other parents that have children who die of suicide get very angry because they think that it’s a very selfish act. I'm a suicide survivor, so I know why my daughter did it. I would have wished that my daughter would have never known what this pain was,” said Connie.
When did you first start to see that Carla was depressed or acting different?
I saw a change in her when she would lock herself in her room, when she slept a lot, when she was very distant, and she became very angry. And she didn’t want to talk anymore and she would cry all the time. I would ask her what's wrong; she never wanted to talk. And I saw her cutting herself, and that's when I asked her why she was doing that and she just would hide it. I just wish that I would have done more.
Carla experienced a lot of bullying. What were some of the things she would tell you she was bullied about?
There was a boy in her class. He was always asking her why she didn't like Trump. Like, “Why don't you like Trump, Carla?” And it was, like, an everyday thing. And so she, she, you know, that was one thing, and another thing that would happen, you know, she was being pushed and shoved; they would spit at her. And this is during the hallways, just different, random people. There was a group of girls in her Spanish class that she had, they would pick on her, like, “What the hell are you freakin’ doing here? You're freakin’ Mexican.” Imagine every day going through stuff like that.
What advice would you give to parents and families who have gone through this, or have worries about their children who are struggling?
Really pay attention. Really listen. Really sit down and say, “How was your day?” Pay attention. Listen. You know, a lot of these kids are really going through some stuff, you know? And my advice to the parents is that if you know that you could do it, then do it. Don't leave anything till the end. Don't wait. Just do it. Get your children the help that they need.
If it helps one person, then her death meant something. And that's what I've been trying to voice out and help, you know? And, hopefully, it does mean something, you know, and help someone out there.
If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (En Español: 1-888-628-9454; Deaf and Hard of Hearing: 1-800-799-4889) or the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.
Karina Gonzalez is a graduate at the Reynolds School of Journalism and works for Noticiero Móvil, a Spanish-English multimedia news outlet for Northern Nevada.